Everyone knows that having friends is healthy, especially if you're going through tough times. Any psychotherapist will tell you that you need people to confide in. It's healthy.

Except when those people are encouraging you to party, do drugs and have risky sex.

Such is the conundrum for Facebook and other social media, where teens can turn for support … and bad influences. New research at USC wants to figure this out:

The study by USC School of Social Work research assistant professor Sonya Negriff seeks to find out if the likes of Facebook encourages teens to engage in “risky activities.”

You know, as in, if your Facebook friend jumps off a cliff, will you?

Negriff says she wants to find out if FB leads to harder partying, alcohol use and the like (as in this weekend's Project X-style teen party in Holmby Hills):

I'm particularly interested in interactions about risk behaviors, such as wall posts about alcohol use, partying, advocating for risky sexual behavior, and how they affect older adolescents.

Then, flipping the script, she wants to find out if social networks can be used for “positive social support for maltreated adolescents.”

Negriff got a $667,852 career development grant from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development to undertake her research. We'll give her the conclusion for free:

Seems to us it's all about which friends you choose, both online and off.

Read more here.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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