Mental Health Substance Abuse

How Does Social Media Influence Teen Drug Use?

The average teenager spends nearly eight hours a day on a phone or computer. This is more time than spent daily in a classroom, and often more time than is spent sleeping. Much of this time is spent interacting with others through social media.

Social media refers to internet sites and applications which allow for information to be shared rapidly, and with a wide audience. Popular social media sites with teens include Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. There is also much information that is shared through video posts on Youtube, where the concept of the internet influencer was born.

As with most other things, the advancement of social media has both positive and negative consequences for our youth. For the teen who is susceptible to mental health disorder and is looking to the online peer group for direction, the messages portrayed within social media may prove to be a destructive mix.

The Role of Peer Influence on Teen Drug Use and Decision-Making Skills

Teenagers are particularly susceptible to the suggestions provided by those who are admired, popular, or trending. The teen years are a period of time when children make their greatest strides toward adulthood. As part of this journey, there is a tendency for the influence of parents to decrease, and the importance of peer opinion to increase.

As much as it might tear at a parent’s heartstrings, the substitution of parental guidance by peer suggestion is a normal, healthy, part of maturation. Breaking away from parents in order to form an identity as an independent adult is an important stage toward establishing a successful life. A parent’s best hope during this time is that the decisions made by their fledgling adult will be healthy ones.

For most people, peer friendships are formed based on what the individuals have in common. Common interests and perspectives can provide a starting point for forming more concrete bonds. In modern times, these friendships are often formed virtually. The numerous social media sites that are available means that a teen is never far off from finding a social group by which to receive support in exploring his or her individuality and interconnectedness.

Shared interest in healthy or neutral things – such as fashion, video games, sports, art, computers, and the like – can provide a teen with a social group by which he or she can be encouraged to progress in personal interests and future goals. When the shared interest in in unhealthy activities, however, a teen can be encouraged to progress along a destructive path.

In a quest to be an independent adult, such a teen is prone to view the rebellious behaviors of peers as part of the quest for liberation from parental restraint. A teen with a peer group who promotes substance abuse is continually exposed to temptation to engage in similar behaviors.

Establishment of Cultural Norms

While the United States has overarching cultural standards which guide the behaviors of the majority, there are also subcultures within it. Factors such as academic and personal interests, sexual orientation, political ideology, and race can all play a role in which social subgroup a person is drawn to. Age is also a factor in determining a subculture, with both older and younger people tending to identify with the ideals of their particular generation.

Just as the ideas of Hollywood and marketing influenced the first generation to have a television in their homes, social media influences the generation of today. However, while the content of television was controlled by a small group of people, social media outlets know no such bounds. Any person with charisma, an idea, and access to technology can gain a devoted following.

As implied by the term, “influencer,” there are certain internet personalities who hold a large amount of sway over their fanbase. Popular internet influencers are rewarded with endorsement contracts, as businesses recognize their ability to market and promote new ideas and products. If an influencer recommends it, their fans are likely to try it out.

Many of the popular trend setters are well aware of the malleable state of identity that a teenager is operating in. If the ideas of the influencer are implanted early enough, these ideas can become a solidified part of the teen’s adult perspectives. Once these ideas have been internalized by a large enough group of young people, a new cultural norm is established. Any older person who has uttered the phrase “back in my day” is already aware of how these norms can shift.

Some of the notable shifts in teen culture which have been promoted through social media are positive ones. Teens are encouraged to practice tolerance and acceptance for various social groups, and are encouraged to think about the world on a global scale. On the other end of the spectrum, ideas such as excessive drinking and daily use of marijuana have also been integrated. The concepts of tolerance include acceptance of substance use as a normal behavior.

Social Media Influence on Teen Drug Use and Mental Health

Direct influence from social media in regards to promoting teen drug use is worrisome enough. When the suggestion to engage in teen drug use or alcohol use is presented to someone in a state of poor mental health, the effect can be exponential. Researchers have long determined that those with existing mental health disorders are more at risk of teen drug use and abuse. In the mental health field, this connection is known as co-occurring disorder and self-medication.

There are some studies which have suggested that excessive social media use is a key factor in the development of mental health disorder. Increases in depression, anxiety, low self esteem have all been linked to the self conception that a teenager conceives from the messages delivered within social media. The temptation to compare oneself to others and to react to public opinion is present within all human beings.

For teenagers, it is doubly so. Their developing personas will be busy integrating the delivered information into a cohesive mental conception of themselves, and of the young adult world.

Adolescence Bullying Mental Health Parenting Prevention Safety

Cyberbullying And Teens: The Facts

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve recently talked about text bombing and sexting, with the overlying arc being cyberbullying. It is defined as pervasive, relational aggression, also known as “covert aggression.” It is carried out via the use of electronic technology, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets by means of text messages, social media sites, and online “chatting.” For example, someone may create an online rumor by posting an embarrassing, or inflammatory image or story on social media or in an email. Because it’s online, it has the capacity to spread much faster and have a longer reach.  Cyberbullying intimidates its victims with its intent to control, isolate, shame, and instill fear.

Some forms of cyberbullying are: 

1. A person pretends to be someone else and chats or messages someone online with the intent to trick, shame, or embarrass someone else.

2. Extremely sensitive or personal information is posted and shared online.

3. Lies and gossip are maliciously posted or shared online.

4. Digitally manipulated, often pornographic images are posted or distributed without consent.

5. Online threats. These can be vague or specific.

6. Exclusion, or intensionally excluding someone from an inner or online group or site


Why is cyberbullying different?


1. There is no “off” button: this type of bullying can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The aggressor can reach its target when they are alone, late at night, and early in the morning.

2. Images and/or messages can be posted anonymously to a wide audience, and they can be difficult to trace.


What can you do?


1. Monitor your child’s web activity. Take care to really pay attention to what sites they are using and how “connected” they are. Increase your vigilance if you notice your child is showing signs of depression, becomes withdrawn,  or suffers from low self-esteem.

2. Teach your kids to avoid environments rife with cyberbulling: Facebook, chat rooms, Snap Chat are some of the many sites out there that are breeding grounds for this behavior.

3. You decide what places are unsafe for your child, taking age, maturity, and other factors into consideration.

4. Arm yourself with information. Become well-versed in the ins and outs of social media sites. Get tech savvy, folks and embrace your inner geek!

5. Express the importance of keeping personal information personal and off of the Internet.


Unfortunately, statistics are showing an increase in cyberbulling not a decrease:


1. 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.

2. 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.

3. 58% of kids have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

4. 40% of kids have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully.

5. Cyberbullying victims are eight times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school in the last 30 days than non-bullied teens.

6. Cyberbullying has led to at least four documented cases of teen suicide in the United States.

7. Only 15% of parents polled knew what cyberbullying was.


Cyberbullying isn’t going away right now; it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the increase and variability in technological tools and means of communication. We as parents and teachers need to arm ourselves with information and learn to make better, safer choices. Frankly, most kids don’t need smart phones, but they have them and as a result, they have easy access to a multitude of apps that are designed for online social activity. Some are even designed to promote anonymity or to delete messages as soon as you’ve sent them.  This is a good opportunity to have stronger, more defined boundaries and some dedicated time set aside that is technology free.


You can:

1. Have a no-tech zone around meal times.

2. Go on an outdoor adventure with your family that is technology free.

3. Embrace the value of direct communication. For example, call someone instead of texting.

Technology was designed to make things more efficient and interactive. It has the capacity to reach into spaces we never thought possible. Still, we must harness its dark side for the sake of safety and well-being.


Internet Safety Project

Psych Central

Bullying Statistics


Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Sarit Rogers, New Media Manager

Sarit Rogers is Visions’ very own Woman of Words – Our Billowing Blogger, Lady of Language and Sorceress of Social Media.  She officially joined the V-Team in 2010 and found her stride as our new Media Manager.  We had an idea of what we wanted her to structure, but could not dream of the ways she would use her innovation to build upon the face of Visions in today’s digital world.

With her permission, I’d like to give her a big shout out on 20 years of sobriety today!!!  Every Blog, Tweet and Post is driven from an innate desire to help others find a life of health and happiness.  Sarit’s raw, candid and unbiased way of writing continues to inspire our team and many more readers across the world.

She is a passionate mother to one very cool kid, is wife to Visions’ Mr. Rogers and is the loving owner of her pup, LuLu.  Sarit is a creative activist at heart.  Inspiring others with her writings, photography and yoga practice, she is constantly looking to help others find the authentic beauty of the inner self.

Collaborating on our Staff Blogs has been one of my favorite jobs to create with Sarit.  We have had a ton of fun letting our readers know who the masterminds are that make Visions what it is.  Sarit has allowed us to see how much we are valued amongst our peers…now it is time for her to feel the same:

Christina Howard

“Like her on Facebook, retweet her, snapchat about it, #JustSarit is anything but ‘just’ our New Media Manager.  She has a great artistic eye and has been instrumental in transforming our web content.  This recognition is long overdue!” –Patrick Schettler

“What comes across so clearly to me in Sarit’s writing is that she genuinely cares.  She is passionate in her desire to help others, the embodiment of compassion in action.  Visions is blessed to have such a talented writer who can produce well-researched, thoughtful, and timely articles.  But what really comes across in her writing is a lifetime of personal transformation that has brought her to a place of deep understanding and hope.” – Joseph Rogers

“Besides Sarit being the realest & funniest person at Visions, she’s the most sincere & caring.  Whenever I have the chance to be around her, I make sure I get my daily dose of Sarit.”  – Janette Duran

“Sarit is one of the smartest, kindest ladies I know!  Not only has she helped me post photos from 6,000 miles away on facebook when I was Paris and I couldn’t figure it out, but she was able to get me back on icloud after my kids signed on incorrectly so many times that we were locked out, for life it seemed.  Apple tech support couldn’t understand why we were not able to get back with their help at the Genius Bar!…but Sarit fixed it via a few texts.  She is just awesome.” – Colleen Kelly, PhD

“Sarit is amazing, special, talented, loving, strong, fearless, kind and so much more!  She possesses a positive and loving spirit/energy.  It’s felt the moment you meet her!  All that cross her path are blessed and feel inspired by her greatness!”  – Jennifer Werber

“Sarit is our beautiful wordsmith who makes someone like me, who is known for potty language and poor punctuation, sound like a poet! Sarit is awesome, always thinking of ways to put our Vision out to words, pictures, facebook posts and blogs. She is willing to show up to events to “live tweet” and is always active when there are shows on that discuss issues we deal with in treatment.  She brings Visions’ ideas out into the world of social media. Sarit is not only our social media manager, but also an amazing photographer and….wait for it….married to JRO another one of the Visions family members! She is a wonderful mother and we are always grateful for Sarit’s take on our business planning meetings! Thanks for all you do!” – Amanda Shumow

Let’s Break into this creative mind with our pondering 10 questions:

1.Favorite Song of all time and why?

“Sympathy For the Devil,” Rolling Stones. Musically, it’s multi-layered and interesting.  Lyrically,  it remains one of those songs that is simply timeless. It’s feisty, political, and it illuminates the fact that we all have a dark side within each of us. I’ve loved it every since I was a tot.

2.  Frog pose or tree pose?

Definitely tree pose. It’s nice to be able to find balance and strength physically and mentally.

3.  What would you like to find at the end of a rainbow?

Aside from the elusive pot of gold? A nice cup of tea and warm, stripey socks.

4.  Best thing about being a MOM?

Watching my son experience the world. It’s incredible to see how he loves others without judgment, shows compassion with ease, thinks outside of the box, and is comfortable being who is is. Now if I could just get him to come back to his senses and stop listening to Nicki Minaj…

5.  Who’s a stronger woman…Wonder Woman, Shera or Oprah?

Wonder Woman, hands down. She’s a warrior fighting for justice, equality, love, peace–with sass!  Oh, and I’ve always liked DC comics.

6.  Cookies or Cake?

Sigh. These days, I’d have to say cookies. Gluten Free cake usually tastes like a sweet rock.

7.  Best thing about being married to Mr.Rogers?

One thing? Really? Okay: He’s FunnyIntelligentKindGentleImaginativeMybestfriend

8.  What paints a better picture…Writing or Photography?

Hm. A good writer can paint a picture tantamount to a good photograph if they have  a thesaurus and one hell of an imagination. They are both equal to me but for different reasons. My pen and my camera are extensions of myself.

As my favorite photographer, Ruth Bernhard once said, “Light is my inspiration, my paint and brush.”

9.  What do you want to be when you grow up?


10.  Why do you work for Visions?

Many, many reasons. We offer something that was barely in existence when I was getting sober. To work for a company that has made helping teens and their families through one of their darkest times is a blessing for which I am truly grateful. Every word I write, every tweet, and every FB post is an act of being of service and extending the familial arm of the Visions’ family. And I get to do it in my yoga pants.




Social Media: Helpful or Harmful?

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s (CASA Columbia) recently published
their 16th annual back-to-school survey which takes a look at adolescent behaviors regarding substance abuse in relation to social media. CASA Columbia took a look at American teens ages 12-17, their social media use and how it might ultimately affect their alcohol and drug abuse behaviors, and parent involvement or lack thereof. The findings, though not terribly surprising, were substantial: “70% of teens report spending time on social networking sites on a typical day,” which come out to approximately 17 million 12-17 year olds doing participating in some sort of social media activity on a typical day.
With the naturally uncensored dynamics of teen behavior, the typical day-to-day posts can range anywhere from being tagged in a drunken photo from the previous weekend’s house party to the false braggadocio of one’s sexual prowess. From the outside looking in, sites like Facebook and MySpace certainly show implications of promoting an environment of peer pressure. After looking at the results from this study, that impression is pretty spot on:

“Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:
• Three times likelier to use alcohol;
• Four times likelier to use marijuana;
• Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
• Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.”

Where parents tend to fall flat is in relation to their ignorance and denial of the powerful effects of suggestion, a key factor associated with the subversive allure of social media sites. Parents must be careful not to adopt the “Not my child” attitude and get informed instead. According to the CASA study, “Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.” That’s not a particularly positive result, and frankly, it confirms the high level of denial that aids and abets the social media petri dish of reckless behavior.
This isn’t hopeless, though. The results of the CASA study present an opportunity for change. It’s a chance for us fuddy-duddy adults to learn to look at the world from the lenses of our kids. We were teens once, too, and though memories are often clouded, it behooves us to remember that we were once reckless and secretive and convinced that our parents were the enemy. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare suggests the need for parents to “give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.” While I agree that our kids need the skills and strength of character to manage social media, I think we need to be careful not to incite a sense of imminent fear, but instead look at the results of this study as something from which we can nurture an opportunity for behavioral metamorphosis. Growing up is scary enough.
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