Survey: Teens First Turn to Friends, Then Parents, for Any Advice Regarding Drugs and Alcohol

Most students would turn to their friends for advice on problems related to drug or alcohol use, but only a few would consult teachers or guidance counselors, according to a new study commissioned by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority.

The study, conducted by the Levinsky College of Education, found that 68 percent of the teenage respondents said they would consult their peers first.

Mothers were the second most popular source of advice, cited by 55 percent of respondents, while 45 percent said they would talk to their fathers. In addition, 41 percent said they would search for advice on the Internet.

Teens were far less likely to talk to teachers or guidance counselors, however. Only 15 percent said they would approach the guidance counselor, 11 percent would turn to their primary teacher and 5 percent said they would consult a different teacher. In contrast, 24 percent of respondents said they would consult a private psychologist.

The survey quizzed 1,900 Jewish students nationwide in 9th and 11th grade. The survey did not include non-Jews.

The teens' answers differed considerably from the predictions of their teachers, who were asked what they thought their students' responses would be.

Although the 600 teachers who participated in the survey successfully predicted that most teenagers would name friends as their preferred source of advice, they predicted that less than 10 percent would turn to their parents and that 80 percent would seek help on the Internet.

Dr. Hanna Ezer, director of academic studies at Levinsky College, suggested ways in which schools could reach out to their students more effectively based on the study's findings.

"We should try to institutionalize friendships as a source of information," she proposed. "We can train older members of youth groups, who are closer in age to the students but also have a status of authority and leadership.

"Also, we can make greater use of the Internet by setting up a special web site that would provide detailed advice and online help, such as discussion forums and personal chats," Dr. Ezer continued.

She also urged teachers to cultivate closer ties with their students in order to be able to help them better.