Our gangster teddy bear of hip hop, Rick Ross, is not shy about glamorizing drug hustling or consumption. While he proudly proclaims (for entertainment value), “I’m smoking dope, I’m on my cell phone/ I’m selling dope, straight off the iPhone,” on his hit “9 Piece”, parents and public service officials are not amused. According to an article published by Reuters, studies show teenagers who are engaged in social media are more at risk of smoking, drinking, and abusing experimental drugs. In fact, the findings show that these teens “are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.”
Now where did these researchers come to such a goofy, caricatured conclusion? After surveying over a thousand teens ranging between the ages of 12 and 17, they found that some of them (a mere 14%) have seen “pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.” This finding somehow proves that because kids now have more exposure to drugs (or, in this case, pictures of drugs), they will be more inclined to abuse them, as they begin to develop a “what-the-hell” attitude. The article concludes by quoting the report that states, “‘Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse,’ it said.”
The recent class discussions involving arguments made by boyd, Wilett, and Hasinoff has painted two very different outlooks of social media–one on behalf of teens (just trying to be teens), and one of deeply concerned, extremely paranoid parents. As the Hasinoff reading introduced this idea of a moral panic setting in among adults over the new uses of technology by teens (namely sexting), mainstream coverage of it has only perpetuated a skewed perception of teens and how they use social media. By sensationalizing and not contextualizing the coverage, it creates a very black/white, right/wrong approach to social media. If your kid might use drugs because he saw some photos of it online, stop people from posting these pictures and your kid will never touch a single drop in his life! Duh!
This moral panic also encourages authority to make outlandish cause-and-effect statements in order to instill fear in teens. Like the Rick Santorum complex, not everything leads to unplanned pregnancies and moral corruption.
In the Mitchell reading, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting,” the author tries to challenge the myth that youth sexting results in the rise of teen pregnancies, and debunking the paranoia discourse we have surrounding youth and social media. He says that sexting may not result in an increase in youth risk-taking, but that it just may appear this way because it “just makes some of that behavior more visible to adults and other authorities.” And that argument is entirely applicable to the relationship between youth drug use and youth social media use. Teenagers are going to be exposed to drugs, encouraged by peers, and curious to experiment on their own. Social media is only a platform to express what is already happening. The heart of the problem isn’t social media or Rick Ross.