More time spent on social media has been linked to increased alcohol use, with exposure to peer alcohol-related content on social media (content exposure) named as a critical factor in this relationship. Little is currently known about whether early content exposure may have lasting effects across adolescent development, or about the capacity of parental monitoring of social media use to interrupt these links.
Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health addressed these gaps using both cross-sectional and longitudinal contexts among a longitudinal sample of 432 Australian secondary school students aged 13-16.
Evidence was found for links between social media use and alcohol use frequency in early development. Social media time at age 13 was significantly associated with concurrent alcohol use frequency. At age 13, alcohol use frequency was significantly higher among those who reported content exposure compared to those who reported no exposure. The frequency of alcohol use over time increased at a faster rate among participants who reported content exposure at age 13. In terms of parental monitoring, no longitudinal effects were observed. However, parental monitoring at age 13 did significantly reduce the concurrent relationship between alcohol use frequency and content exposure.
The impact of social media content exposure on alcohol use in adolescence may be more important than the time spent on social media, and any protective effect of parental monitoring on content exposure may be limited to the time it is being concurrently enacted, the study authors say.
Source: Smout A, Chapman C, Mather M, Slade T, Teesson M, Newton N. It’s the Content That Counts: Longitudinal Associations between Social Media Use, Parental Monitoring, and Alcohol Use in an Australian Sample of Adolescents Aged 13 to 16 Years. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 16;18(14):7599.