It is a well-known fact that advertisements affect human behaviour. This is why there are limits on advertising alcoholic beverages in print and on television. It is also why cigarette advertisements no longer appear in mainstream television or print content.
However, the restrictions are much looser on online advertisers, and evidence suggests that social media may be encouraging underage persons to drink. According to new research, using social media one hour a day causes alcohol consumption among teenagers from 7th to 11th grade to experience a 0.45 unit increase.
Do screens cause teens to drink?
There has been a longstanding perception that increased screen time makes children more likely to abstain from alcohol. However, the findings of this study indicate that this may not be the case.
Nonetheless, the issue is not entirely black and white. The study found that the correlation between screen time and alcohol consumption is positive. Children who view online marketing for alcohol are more likely to start drinking - and to drink excessively. However, the type of screen time makes a difference.
Children who mainly watch TV, for example, are unlikely to be exposed to the same level of positive messaging surrounding alcohol consumption, compared to what they might see on social media platforms. There are restrictions on alcohol advertising on traditional television, but the restrictions on social media are much more lax.
What are the current restrictions on alcohol advertising on social media?
Of all the major social media platforms, only one - TikTok - bans alcohol advertising entirely. Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter do not allow alcohol ads to target minors explicitly, but the content is still accessible. Facebook prohibits showing alcohol ads to those under 18.
Be proactive in protecting your children
Social media has made it easier than ever for children to access alcohol-related content that may seem fun or exciting. It's important that you talk to your kids about the consequences of drinking - both personally and legally. If your kids are clear on your expectations and the potential repercussions of underage drinking, it can help them to avoid getting into a serious situation down the road.