Is exposure to online content depicting risky behavior related to viewers' own risky behavior offline?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review




Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-287
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date17 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are public and governmental concerns that social media may encourage risky behavior in the offline environment. Using international survey data from 412 young adults aged between 18 and 25 years of age (M = 21.20 years, SD = 2.31 years), this study demonstrates that there is a relationship between exposure to online content depicting risky behavior and users’ own offline risky behavior. This relationship was found for six behaviors: drug use, excessive alcohol use, disordered eating, self-harm, violence to others, and dangerous pranks. A borderline effect was found for two further behaviors: unprotected sex and sex with a stranger. The relationship between content depicting disordered eating and offline behavior was only significant for females; suggesting that female users may be more vulnerable to effects of viewing content depicting disordered eating habits, and/or use social media content to find material related to their existing behavior. No other gender moderation effects were found. The findings provide preliminary evidence that social media use may influence offline risky behavior in young adults.

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