Media Campaign Fact Sheets

Teens & Technology Fact Sheet

Young people are seeking or getting drug information online, and the content they find is often detailed and dangerous.

  • Fifty five percent of Internet users say they have received an unsolicited email advertising a prescription drug and 40 percent say they've received an unsolicited email advertising an over-the-counter drug .1
  • In September 2005, a DEA investigation resulted in the arrest of 18 people, operating more than 4,600 rogue Internet pharmacy Web sites.2
  • A search on, a social networking site used by millions of people and popular among teens, turns up tens of thousands of people talking about marijuana.3
  • Twenty-two percent of Internet-using teens say they have looked for information online about a topic that's hard to talk about, like drug use, sexual health or depression.4
  • Pro-drug Web sites commonly include descriptions of the preparation, dose, administration and psychoactive effects of drugs, as well as recommendations for managing the adverse effects of illicit drugs.5
  • One popular online pro-drug encyclopedia, Erowid, contains 20,000 documents that provide enormous detail on drug use, including dosage, modes of administration and intended effects. It receives 250,000 daily page visits and 6 million annual unique visitors seeking information on more than 200 psychoactive substances.6
  • A study found that the Internet leads adolescent drug users to try new drugs and drug combinations; take steps to minimize the harmful effects of drugs; and modify the use of preferred drugs.7

Teens frequently go online alone, unsupervised, and often engage in risky behaviors:

  • Nearly one-third (29%) of students surveyed said their parent or guardian would disapprove if they knew what they were doing on the Internet.8
  • Sixty-four percent of online teens say that most teens do things online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about.9
  • One-third (33%) of 13-17 year olds and nearly half (48%) of 16-17 year olds report that their parents or guardians know "very little" or "nothing" about what they do on the Internet.10

Many parents are not monitoring or supervising their teens' digital activities:

  • Just under half (42%) of parents do not review the content of what their teenager(s) read and/or type in chat rooms or via instant messaging.11
  • Thirty percent of parents allow their teenagers to use the computer in private areas of the house, such as a bedroom or home office.12
  • More than one in five (22%) 13-17 year olds said their parents or guardians have never discussed Internet safety with them.13
  • A majority of parents (65%) feel they could do a better job supervising their children's media use.14

Nearly all teens are using technology all the time, everywhere.

  • Close to nine in ten teens, or 87 percent of youth ages 12 to 17, are Internet users, and half of these teens go online daily.15
  • Approximately 19 million teens instant message.16 Sixty percent of teens have their own cell phone.17
  • One-third (33%) of teens have used a cell phone to send a text message. One in four cell phone-owning teens has used their phone to connect to the Internet.18
  • Thirteen percent of young people report having a handheld device that connects to the Internet.19


1 Pew Internet & American Life Project, Prescription Drugs Online, October 10, 2004.

2 Drug Enforcement Agency press release, "Operation CYBERx Dismantles Nationwide Internet Pharmacy Scheme," September 21, 2005.

3 ABC News, What Are Teens Hiding on MySpace, May 18, 2006

4 Pew Internet & American Life Project: Teens and Parents Survey, October-November 2004 survey.

5 Boyer, E, Shannon, M, Hibberd, PL. (2001) Web sites with misinformation about illicit drugs. New England Journal of Medicine, 345: 469-471.

6 Boyer, EW, Shannon, M, Hibberd PL. (2005) The Internet and psychoactive substance use among innovative drug users, Pediatrics, 15: 302-305.