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Underage Drinking

TikTok shows alcohol use, but not consequences

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#ALCOHOL


Videos with this hashtag have 1.7 billion views. The problem: 1/3 of TikTok users are underage.


In a recent study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers evaluated the nature of the top 100 most liked videos tagged with #alcohol on TikTok. At the time of the study, these 100 videos garnered 1.7 billion views.

The majority of these videos --98%-- showed alcohol in a positive light, failing to make note of alcohol's risks, especially for people under 21.

60% of the videos portrayed rapid consumption of multiple drinks, which is the most common way underage people consume alcohol. 90% of underage consumption takes the form of binge drinking.

Why does this matter so much?

Roughly 1/3 of TikTok's users are under the legal drinking age, and industry website BusinessOfApps.com reports that girls 10-19 years old represent the single largest user demographic on the platform. To compound these concerns, it turns out that female alcohol patterns have fundamentally changed in the past few years.

All of this has serious implications for teens, who now form a large portion of their worldview based on messages and images on their phones or other personal electronic devices.

Much like the controversial beer ads from decades past, this new media platform is just the latest front in the prevention battle. In response to increased restrictions on alcohol advertising, companies of all types have been forced to get more creative in their attempts to target underage drinkers with themes and imagery.

One of the most troubling tactics is the rise of Influencer marketing. Influencers are individuals who have large social media followings and are compensated to promote specific products and highlight their use through photo or video posts. It's the modern form of a celebrity endorsement, but these transactions are not regulated in the same way as traditional broadcast advertising.

Not Just TikTok

Other social media platforms are also contributing to the problems. In one study by the University of Pittsburg Center for Media, Technology, and Health, a sampling of 137 YouTube videos featuring alcohol were reviewed. Researchers found that:

  • Over 10 percent depicted "chugging", while many others portrayed unhealthy consumption methods
  • More than 40% were traditional advertisements
  • Still more featured a paid "influencer" highlighting a particular product or Recipe for drinks containing alcohol.

For context, this particular group of videos had racked up nearly 100 million views at the time of publication.

What Can You Do?

As a parent or educator, it's important to have honest discussions about reality vs. hype in advertising. This is especially true for dispelling the mystique for younger teens around alcohol (and now cannabis) products, particularly where influencer endorsements are concerned.

While the landscape is rapidly changing, make sure that you're familiar with the apps that your children and teens are using. Apple and other mobile phone platforms offer parental controls that can help you monitor:

  • Which apps are used, and with what frequency
  • Content viewed and time spent on specific websites
  • Overall time spent online

As a parent, this can be time-consuming. But taking the opportunity to connect with your teens now about social media and what they're seeing is important. Instilling a healthy and balanced approach to evaluating their information sources will pay dividends in all aspects of their future lives.

Safe & Sober will continue to address this in our program videos and resource content. Check back often for the latest updates.

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