With its widespread use, there are bound to be some negative effects for users, particularly those under the age of 18. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine published a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2014, which studied Twitter users and which categories of users were most likely to receive pro-marijuana tweets. From May through December 2013, the researchers analyzed messages from the Twitter handle @stillblazintho, or Weed Tweets. The account has around 1 million followers, and is constantly posting content surrounding the use of marijuana. During the study period, the account posted on average 11 tweets per day. These tweets were reaching all of their followers, 73% of whom were 19 years old or younger. Researchers concluded this amount is troublesome, as patterns of drug use are usually formed during late teens to early 20s. These patterns can affect long-term drug use when the teen becomes an adult.
Despite the growing acceptance of marijuana use in the United States, in 2011 the drug played a part in over 455,000 visits to the emergency room, and around 13% of that population was between the age of 12 to 17. In addition, the drug is still illegal in most states across America. Even in the two that are legal—Colorado and Washington—people younger than age 20 do not have legal access to marijuana.
The principal investigator of the study, Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, said, “As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it’s important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse...I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.” With that in mind, it's been found that people are more likely to use marijuana when they believe it won't harm them.
Ultimately, authors of the study believe that exposure to these pro-marijuana tweets may need monitored, in the hopes of discovering more information about the public's exposure to them. If you think your teenager is subject to pro-marijuana or other drug related tweets and could be influenced by information received via the Internet, talk to them. Educate your teenager and be aware of the influences that surround their digital media use.