While there are many entertaining and safe Web sites promoting popular songs and videos, there are also many that contain messages harmful to youth. Recent data from a special study conducted by Nielsen Online, on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, reveal that today’s tech-savvy teens are exposed to dangerous, drug-related content through the Internet.
The analysis also shows that viewer comments posted to drug-related videos on sites like YouTube overwhelmingly support or suggest acceptance of the video content.
· Nearly one in 20 teens viewed drug-related videos online during a one-month period; 35 percent were under age 16 (Nielsen Online Custom Study).
· Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication (Nielsen Online Custom Study).
· Even the youngest kids have access to dangerous online content. More than 8.9 million two- to 11-year-olds viewed video online in August 2008 (Nielsen Online, Video Census).
Though many parents may be monitoring their child’s offline activities, few are paying close attention to what they are doing online. Many teens say their parents are unaware of the wide-ranging access they have to risky behaviors once they are in front of a computer screen.
In fact, according to a recent survey, parents don’t include drugs in their top 10 list of concerns about children’s online computer use, and nearly one-third of teens say their parents would disapprove if they knew what they were really doing on the Internet.
What sites do teens visit for music and videos?
As teens spend more and more time online, listening to music and watching online videos consistently rank in their top three online activities. More than half of teens (52%) report listening to MP3s in a given week, with an average listening time of more than four hours per week.
While the majority of teens might be visiting sites like iTunes and Rhapsody to legally download and listen to music, many teens are still visiting illegal music-sharing sites that violate intellectual property rights.
YouTube, a video sharing site where users can upload, view, and share video clips, is one of teens’ four favorite and most visited sites (along with Google, MySpace, and Facebook). Other than recommended guidelines, there are no barriers to what content is portrayed in those videos or who can view them. For example, if a teen were to go to YouTube and search for “drug”-related videos, the top 10 search returns have almost 47 million views. The top-10 “marijuana”-related videos on YouTube have almost 30 million views. The top-10 “weed”-related videos on YouTube have been viewed almost 25 million times. And the top-10 “cocaine”-related videos on YouTube have been viewed about 25 million times.
Teens can also create, star in, and upload the content on video-sharing and music download sites. For example, the video networking site with the highest concentration of 12-17-year-olds is Stickam.com, a hub for Webcams of people in their bedrooms.
What are the dangers that parents should be aware of?
· Music and the Internet make drug use seem accepted and cool. In an analysis of the most popular songs of 2005, according to Billboard magazine 42 percent had a substance use reference of any kind (explicit, figurative, or place).
· The Billboard results suggest that the average adolescent is exposed to approximately 84 references to explicit substance use per day, 591 references per week, or 30,732 references per year.
· In an analysis of online discussions about drugs and alcohol among teens of blogs, public chat rooms, message boards, and other online places, 28 percent of online messages about marijuana also often discussed other destructive behaviors such as drinking, smoking cigarettes, and cutting (self-mutilation).
· Even the youngest kids have access to risky material. The top online video destination for 2-11-year-olds is YouTube.