Social Media should be banned from teenagers and we should lock them up – Part 1 of 2

In this month’s blog post, Boris Chapoton is reflecting on the fear that people can have when it comes to social network sites. Divided into 2 parts to be published within the month, the first part intends to describe what social media is, how it could be attractive to adolescents in particular, and what economic benefits are associated with its use. The second part will focus on the dangers that could be associated with the use of social media, and an insight into the problems teenagers could be facing while using Snapchat.

Faceboohoook… INstagrAhAhAhAM… (indistinct whisperers)… SNAPCHAT! I got you, right? Aren’t you scared? You should be. Imagine a place where people can communicate with anybody around the world, get access to lots of information, share any type of content, and that teenagers can have “unrestricted” access to such a place. Worst, imagine that we can’t have access to what teenagers are looking at or sharing with strangers. 

PART I – What is Social Media and why are people using it?  

Social Media is not that recent…

Social media (SM) emerged at the same time as the internet and has grown at the same speed as more and more people began to access it. SM could be described as interactive media through which one can communicate and exchange data (documents, photos, videos etc.) with individuals or groups, within or outside their immediate environment[1]. In the past (20 years ago), when connecting to the internet, you had to listen to dial-up sounds and screeches for about 30 seconds before connecting. If that wasn’t bad enough, you also had to hope that nobody else in the house wanted to use the phone at the same time! This was the first time it was possible to chat/ communicate with friends or strangers on online platforms. These platforms were generated by the internet providers for example, which were creating general or specific “Chat rooms” dedicated to particular subjects or populations. At the time, the abbreviation ASL(Age/Sex/Location) was asked as an introduction to get to know the person behind the pseudonym. Since then, SM has evolved to include users personalised content. Users can create a profile with as much personal information as they wish, can give opinions about what other users are posting, and get approval (with or without asking for it) from the content they are publishing – whether from anonymous users or from identifiable ones. 

Copy of the book’s cover Internet: A first discovery bookby Chabot, J.F. (2000), Scholastic References, ISBN 0439148243 (source

…but SM use is getting bigger and bigger

From 2001 to 2017, the global numbers of individuals using the Internet increased from 8% to 48%[2]. In 2018, 4.021 billion people were using the internet; 3.196 billion were SM users[3]. Use of traditional media i.e. TV or radio, is being exceeded by SM platforms on which internet users spend more and more time[4]. Thus, nearly half of the population of the world can be reached through the internet and in extension SM, and two thirds of the population can hypothetically share information and communicate with each other, or can be reached online through these media. 

“Man is by nature a social animal” (Aristotle)

In “Social Media” there is the “Social” element that is the core component of the applications and websites. If we focus on teenagers, the adolescent period is considered as being one of the most complicated period in one’s life – teenagers are trying to ‘find’ themselves and discover where they sit in society, all the while experiencing rapid developmental and hormonal changes that cause confusion and anxiety. This group are seeking external validation that they are socially acceptable. SM can facilitate this processand be of significant importance for teenagers; it gives them the opportunity to be connected and to communicate with  their peers at any time,  to access information related to what they like (music, clothes, famous people etc.) and to get to know and learn from the experiences of the people they are connected with. Extensive networks allow some teenagers to connect with people they would normally see at school or at other places they go, with friends of their friends, or with people they just share a common interest with. Even if they are in contact with groups that in “real life” settings they probably wouldn’t interact with, they do not necessarily interact with them that much online either. They are just acknowledging that they have something in common like it could be the case for two people from different grade levels going to the same school who wouldn’t talk to each other at school but still would be connected online. 

The communication channel

The “Media” element of “Social Media” involves a way of carrying something (e.g. an informational, or an entertaining piece of content) from A to B, to carry a message from the sender to the receiver. As such, the SM could be considered as a great place to discover other people, different cultures and parts of the world that might have been hard to reach in another time.  It allows users to get access to information, to share knowledge internationally, to maintain access to one’s contact anytime, anywhere and to advertise products as well.  

The economic part associated to SM

As previously stated, nearly half of the population can be reached through SM. It is then no wonder why a whole new economic industry has been developed within this new way of reaching populations worldwide. A decade ago, the most valuable companies were the ones selling energy (ExxonMobil, General Electric). Nowadays, the most valuable ones are the ones giving access to data (Apple, Alphabet/Google, Facebook)[5]. These data are provided by the internet and SM users themselves. They are used by, or sold to companies in order to reach particular types of populations. Every time you use the product attached to SM and grant the company permission, data is obtained on some of your characteristics: your age, sex, marital status, mood, place you went to, etc. However, if we take the example of Facebook, rather than selling your data directly to particular companies, they would provide access to you to specific buyers (e.g. Spreading an advertisement from a company to a specific type of population such as 20 years old single men interested in sports within a specific area). By doing so, Facebook generated in 2017 nearly 40 billion U.S. dollars on advertising revenue alone. This figure corresponded to about 98% of the company’s global revenue[6]. However, to make sure that companies pay them to advertise their products through their media, SM have to make sure that people are using it on a regular basis.

To be continued…

[1]Moreno, M.A., Whitehill, J.M. Influence of Social Media on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults. Alcohol Research (2014) 36(1): 91-100. 

[2]Source: International Telecommunication Union,





Joining efforts to improve prevention research

This month, Laura Castillo talks about her participation at the 2018 World Meeting of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) and shares her reflections on how collaboration across different fields of prevention research could lead to better strategies to tackle behavioural problems.

Last month I went to the ISRA World Meeting in Paris. At this conference, a lot of prevention research was presented. The results of strategies and programs to prevent violent crime, intimate partner violence, child abuse, bullying and other forms of aggression in different ages were discussed. However, I was surprised that I had not seen any of these researchers at the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) conference last year. Continue reading

My first experiences in alcohol use research: recommendations for early career researchers

In this article, Joella shares her first experiences of working as a research assistant on a research placement at the University of Balearic Islands alongside the Research Group in Data Analysis.The project that Joella is currently working on focuses on young people’s alcohol use, specifically in the psychosocial evaluation of alcohol use in young people of Palma de Mallorca. This evaluation includes the assessment of risky alcohol use, attitudes towards alcohol use and socioeconomic status. Joella’s role in this study is to coordinate and implement data collection. It is hoped that throughout the placement Joella will gain essential research and project management skills that will help her pursue a PhD in prevention research. Joella concludes with some key recommendations for other early career researchers who are trying to gain experience in their field.

Continue reading

Why prevention research matters for global health policy

Prevention research plays a crucial role in data gathering, and developing best practices and strategies for fighting one of the biggest issues in global health today – the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In this month’s blog, Vasilka Lalevska reflects on how, why and when prevention research matters in this context.

Continue reading

International Drug Control vs. Preventing Harm from Substance Use in Afghanistan

In this month’s blog post, Abdul Subor Momand and Larissa J. Maier provide a perspective on current drug policy developments in Afghanistan and emphasize how these impact prevention efforts in the country. The authors will explore what it needs to tackle substance use among youth and people with substance use disorders during times of political instability and nationwide grief.

Continue reading

To do or to … give up?

In this blog, Sanela Talič would like to share her experiences with the implementation of “Strengthening Families Program (6-11)” in Slovenia. It is a comprehensive family-focused curriculum that includes 14 sessions of parent training, children’s skills training, and family skills training in order to promote behaviour change in high risk families.  SFP has been found to significantly reduce multiple risk factors for later alcohol and drug use, mental health problems and criminal behaviour by increasing family strengths, teens /children’s social competencies and improving positive parenting skills.

Continue reading

Virtually limitless? Contemplating virtual reality in prevention research

This month, Samuel Tomczyk invites us to take the plunge into his research area of virtual reality, and debunks some of the main myths surrounding its everyday application and its potential use for prevention research. Whether this should be limited to ‘lab work’ is the question asked by the author: virtual reality can provide invaluable training for dealing with the most precarious situations, but is it truly replicable?

Continue reading

Sexual health promotion in adolescents: From the schools to the shelters

In this post, Dr Alexandra Morales, Assistant Professor at Miguel Hernández University (Spain), shares details of an exciting new project to promote positive sexual health behaviours in adolescents who are living in children’s shelters in Spain. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Espada, Full Professor at Miguel Hernández University; Dr Orgilés, Full Professor at Miguel Hernández University; and Dr Lightfoot, Professor at University of California San Francisco. Alexandra explains this new line of research, why this work is so important, and what the next steps are for the project.

Continue reading

Come on let’s TWIST again! Early Career Bursaries @LxAddictions 2017

In this post, Dijana Jerković and Larissa J. Maier share their experiences of securing funding through the TWIST project, in order to attend LxAddictions 2017. The aim is to describe the TWIST training and the application process to support other early career researchers who may want to contribute to the upcoming third conference in 2019.

Continue reading