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How to Protect Children from the Negative Influence of Drugs and Alcohol Use on Social Media

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Social media has consumed the lives of millions of children and teens. It has shaped their perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. According to the Pew Research Center, YouTube is used by 95% of teens in the United States, followed by TikTok (67%), Instagram, and Facebook.

As the reach of social media grows, so does the glamorization and normalization of recreational substance use. Social media influences drug and alcohol use by creating a fear of missing out, peer pressure, and trending behavior.

For parents, navigating this landscape can be daunting, but proactive measures can help mitigate the influence of social media on children’s perceptions of substance use. The following information provides practical strategies for parents to safeguard their children’s well-being.

How Social Media Sensationalizes Drug and Alcohol Use

Social media platforms are rife with content that romanticizes and promotes substance use, from images of celebrities partying to influencers endorsing alcohol brands.

Research about media and marketing influences has shown that teens have high exposure to drug and alcohol portrayals in social media and that these portrayals are associated with subsequent substance use.

Social media is responsible for some of the following:

  • It leads to fear of missing out (FOMO), the feeling that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are.
  • It creates enormous peer pressure. Most young people don’t realize how susceptible they are to peer pressure until it is too late.
  • It magnifies and promotes unhealthy trends, such as binge drinking or recreational drug use, which are easy to get caught up in.

The primary connection between social media, drugs, and alcohol is influence. Regardless of age, we are highly influenced by our peers, often more than we know.

How Parents Can Lessen the Influence of Social Media

While it is impossible to shield your children from social media influence completely, there are proactive steps any parent can take to mitigate the impact on their perceptions of drug and alcohol use. Consider some of the following pointers:

Focus on open communication. Encourage your kids to ask questions and express their concerns about content they come across on social media. Create a non-judgmental environment to gain insight into their online experience and provide them guidance.

Teach them about social media literacy and online safety. Knowing how to critically evaluate content consumed on social media is essential, and children should learn how to do this. Speak about the persuasive techniques used by influencers and advertising. Help them develop media literacy skills and become critical thinkers.   

Establish clear boundaries and rules. Set guidelines regarding screen time and social media use, such as only being used in family rooms and no screen time before or during bedtime. Monitor the platforms your children use. Encourage healthy online activities and model responsible screen use yourself. 

Lead by example and be a positive role model. Every child learns by example. Ideally, parents should demonstrate responsible attitudes toward drug and alcohol use in their own behavior. Try to avoid glamorizing or endorsing alcohol or drug consumption in real life and on social media. Place importance on making informed and responsible choices when faced with peer pressure.  

If you have concerns, seek professional help. According to the Cleveland Clinic, too much screen time and unrealistic expectations and perceptions lead to an increased risk of anxiety and depression among teens, which can also lead to experimenting with drugs or alcohol. If you have concerns, seek professional help from a qualified therapist or counselor.


Every day, more and more people are flocking to social media. Its usage alone is akin to addiction, as platforms are designed to offer surges of dopamine. Social feeds on these platforms are optimized for the user. Exploring drug and alcohol use leads to more of the same feed of images and posts.

Social media also promotes a particular culture that affirms consuming things in excess, becoming a certain way, having a specific voice or viewpoint, and gaining a massive following. A small part of this culture glorifies binge drinking, partying, drugs, and recreational drug use.

Social media’s influence on young children’s perceptions of substance use is undeniable, but with proactive intervention, parents can help lessen its impact.

Focus on fostering open communication, promoting media literacy, setting clear boundaries, being positive role models, and seeking professional support when needed.

Parents can empower their children to navigate the social media landscape with resilience and critical thinking skills, safeguarding their well-being in the process.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources and support in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service.

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About the Author: Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with substance use for over 20 years, most recently with the creation of SUPE: Substance Use Prevention Education. His work focuses on a threefold approach: education, prevention, and rehabilitation.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/happy-female-student-messaging-on-smartphone-on-gray-couch-3974096/

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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