TV, alcohol, and kids just don’t mix. The average American youth spends 1200 hours per year watching television. This total of 1200 hours is the equivalent of spending 50 days a year watching TV.
In the 50 days a year that our kids are consumed by the television, beer and spirit advertisers are increasing the amount of money spent on ads to sell their products to impressionable viewers. In 2010, beer and alcoholic spirits companies spent over 1 billion dollars on TV ads. The mix of alcohol ads with young people watching is leading to a dangerous and deadly trend among American youth.
The Link Between Underage Drinking and Advertising
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among American youth. People between the ages of 12 to 20 currently drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. In a 2014 survey, nearly 9 million youths reported consuming alcohol within the past 30 days. By age 15, 35% of teens have consumed alcohol and the figure rises to 65%, more than half of American youth admitting to drinking alcohol, by age 18. When young people drink, they tend to drink heavily, which leads to multiple health problems, including Emergency Room visits and death from accidents and alcohol toxicity.
The link between underage drinking and advertising has been studied in various scenarios and shows there is a clear connection between seeing ads and using alcohol. There is a growing body of evidence that TV, Internet, and print advertising influences alcohol consumption in American youth. For example, a 2015 study looked at brand recognition of alcoholic beverages from TV ads and trends of alcohol consumption. Over 1,000 youth ages 13 to 20 years old were asked to watch 20 TV shows with alcohol ads showed during the airing of the programs. Researchers found that alcohol consumption greatly increased as the advertising ad exposure time increased. The youth who saw more alcohol ads had 4 to 8 times higher rates of drinking alcohol compared to youths who had no exposure to alcohol advertising.
Another study on underage drinking and advertising looked specifically at trends that influence heavy binge drinking in underage youth. Nearly 2000 adolescents were observed in this study. The specific aims were to measure the correlation between heavy drinking and marketing via TV ads, alcohol branded merchandise and exposure to movies with scenes containing alcohol. In the analysis of the results, the most significant factors leading to higher incidence of binge drinking were owning alcohol-branded merchandise and being exposed to movies with alcohol branded products. Other non-marketing influences on heavy drinking by teens included having peers who also drink and self-identifying as a drinker.
Internet Advertising and Underage Drinking
Internet advertisements have also been linked to underage binge drinking. A survey of 2000 teens followed respondents for one year and reported their recognition of Internet ads for alcohol. The teens were tested on their ability to recall ads, how often they visited alcoholic brand web sites, and recognition of alcohol brand specific web pages. The teens that had greater recall of the alcohol marketing ads were most likely to transition from drinking any alcohol to becoming a binge drinker.
The problem of underage drinking affects many aspects of society. Alcohol use typically begins during adolescence, with more than half of teens reporting alcohol use prior to graduation from high school. There are interventions that can help to decrease the onset and problem of underage drinking. Two major strategies for intervention involve school based alcohol prevention programs and the role of parental involvement.
The primary goal of school-based programs is to delay or totally prevent alcohol use. School based programs help delay use by increasing student’s knowledge and skills. Elements of successful school programs help student to resist the social influence of peers drinking alcohol. These programs introduce the idea that drinking by teens is not an acceptable, appropriate, or healthy choice. These programs build on the foundation of helping students develop the character traits and personal skills necessary to resist influences that would promote alcohol use.
The Role of Parents in Underage Drinking
Parental influence can also play a very significant role in preventing underage drinking. Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of drinking alcohol, including the increased risk of death from alcohol related accidents and overdose. Teens that learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than kids who do not learn these risks from their parents. Parents can encourage their children to participate in fun activities that do not involve alcohol and also supervise social events with friends to make sure no alcohol is consumed during parties and social gatherings.
If your teenager has had a sudden change in friends, a decrease in academic performance or physical signs of drinking alcohol, you may want to ask them about underage drinking.
If you know or suspect that your teen is drinking alcohol, we can help you and your family. At Two Dreams, we have a professional and experienced staff to give you the support you need to change the path of your teen’s life today. Call us at 504-510-2331 for help.