Parents, Peers and Pot: An Exploratory Study of Adolescents’ Social Media Sharing of Marijuana-related Content

Primary author: Jessica Willoughby
Co-author(s): Stacey Hust; Jiayu Li; Leticia Couto; Soojung Kang; Shawn Domgaard

Primary college/unit: Edward R. Murrow College of Communication
Campus: Pullman


Adolescents often post content related to risk behaviors online, and social media posting related to substance use has been found to be associated with intentions to use and substance use. However, there is a dearth of research about what may motivate an adolescent to share marijuana-related content. This study aimed to examine the types of content related to marijuana that adolescents are posting on social media and what may influence such sharing. We conducted an online survey in Washington state (N=350), a state in which recreational marijuana use is legal for persons aged 21 and older, and examined adolescents’ social media sharing of marijuana-related content. Thirty-one percent of adolescents in our study reported sharing marijuana-related content on social media, with 24% of adolescent participants sharing marijuana-related memes. Peer marijuana use and perceived parents’ approval of marijuana were positively associated with the likelihood of posting marijuana-related content on social media. Increased perceived parental monitoring was negatively associated with posting marijuana-related content on social media, however, increased parental media monitoring was not. Our research highlights the factors that may influence adolescents’ decisions to share marijuana-related content on social media. Internal factors, such as personal beliefs, were not associated with sharing such content in the final model, whereas external factors, such as perceived peer use and parent approval, were. Our results have implications for communicators, who may want to address adolescents’ norm perceptions, and parents, who may want to informally monitor their children instead of monitoring their social media.