Data Mining of Teens’ Social Media Can Predict Potential Substance Abuse

data mining

Rebellion, refusing to follow curfews, a change in friends, a drop in grades and more — your teen might exhibit concerning signs that give you pause as a parent. You wonder if he or she is involved in substance abuse, but you aren’t sure how find out without being ‘nosy’ and risking possible lashing out. Parents struggle with keeping their teens clean but experienced parents know that orders and rules often fail to prevent more persistent teens. However, new studies have developed ways to use social media to determine if your son or daughter is abusing alcohol or drugs. Parents can use these tools to monitor their teens online and search for the signs.

Keywords that Warn of Possible Substance Abuse

Using Facebook, researchers conducted a study between 2007 and 2012 to examine the status updates of test subjects. They searched for whether those who abused substances were more likely to use certain terms. Their findings connected several terms that correlated with a higher likelihood of using substances. Profanity was an obvious example of likelihood for substance abuse. But perhaps more shocking, even use of feminine pronouns correlated with increased substance abuse. Words referencing space correlated with alcohol while words of violence and medical terms correlated with drug use. Dark, violent films correlated with greater substance abuse while an affinity for films geared more toward women or children correlated with lower use. Surprisingly, the use of male pronouns had a reduced correlation with drug use.

These analyses studied the habits of subjects over a period of time, not just isolated status updates. The accuracy for the study on the whole far surpasses previous methods in determining substance abuse. The study released in May 2017 showed that, for each of tobacco, drugs and alcohol, accuracy rates were all above 80 percent.

Confronting Substance Abuse

While these studies might prove fascinating and revelatory, they cannot serve as a treatment for your teen. They might help you spot problems, but you still need to be proactive with prevention. Sometimes the best approach is simple honesty. Don’t try to scare your teen with hyperbole, myth or anecdotal evidence. The facts about drug use stand for themselves. Be frank about the risks of drugs, including the effects of marijuana on the brain. Explain how charges of possession of drugs or for driving under the influence will leave permanent marks on their records, possibly preventing them for pursuing their goals. You might even need to explain how easy it is for these drugs to lead to death.

You might also opt to seek outside help. Resources at your disposal include:

  • An online course to better educate yourself for confronting your teen about the dangers of substance abuse.
  • Individual counseling to talk about personal issues that are contributing to substance abuse
  • Outpatient group counseling or
  • Inpatient treatment.

Whatever you decide, do not elect to just ignore the problem. Talk openly with your teen since substance abuse can strike almost even the best of kids. Better to annoy them now with prevention than to wait until a single bad choice wrecks their lives.

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