It’s spring break season, and that means many college students across the country will shift their focus from the classroom to having fun. Sometimes those spring break plans can include attending parties where alcohol is present, which can lead to concerning and excessive alcohol consumption. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly used substance by college students, and rates of problematic drinking are higher among college students than compared to their non-college peers.
A new study by Dr. Megan Moreno from Seattle Children’s Research Institute in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that college students are more than twice as likely to post about alcohol on Facebook than on Twitter.
The study provides researchers, school administrators and parents with valuable information on how to study and monitor social media for concerning alcohol consumption.
“This work illuminates new approaches for social media researchers and can help us understand where young people post different types of social media content,” said Moreno.
Facebook posts about alcohol
Moreno and her team recruited college students who have both Facebook and Twitter accounts at two large state universities in the Midwest and the Northwest. The students agreed to participate in the study and allow researchers to observe their social media accounts.
About 80% of participants in the study reported current alcohol use to researchers. At the onset of the study, participants reported they had consumed an average of 25 drinks in 28 days.
Moreno found that 76% of the college students who participated in the study displayed alcohol references on Facebook, compared to just 34% who posted about alcohol on Twitter.
“We initially expected to see more posts about alcohol on Twitter, but what we found was that college students are posting much more often about alcohol on Facebook,” Moreno said. “This offers researchers big clues for how to develop broader epidemiological studies on alcohol consumption among college students.”
Moreno adds that this information can also help administrators and researchers develop more effective interventions.
“We cannot assume that all social media sites are the same, or that young people use them in the same way,” she said. “This helps us understand how to reach young people effectively when it comes to public safety and health messages.”
Knowledge for parents to monitor drinking
Moreno says this information can also be useful to parents, especially because many college students are Facebook friends with their parents. According to previous research, few college students block Facebook content from their parents, so everything they post is visible to mom or dad.
Moreno said. “If parents check in regularly on their kid’s social media use, they have the opportunity to intervene and start a conversation if they see concerning content.”