In October 2013, a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that alcohol is the most common drug used by young people and is responsible for over 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. Meanwhile, data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that by age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have already had at least one drink and an estimated four out of five college students drink alcohol.
The results and consequences of underage drinking by minor children are absolutely horrifying, especially since these actions are largely preventable. Where are our youth viewing and how are they learning to emulate this destructive and deadly behavior?
Television's Influence on Underage Drinking
In this media driven world, advertising is everywhere we look, every minute of every day. Alcoholic products are no exception. From television, pop up computer ads, advertisements on mobile devices, billboards, sporting events and more, there's simply no way to avoid the onslaught of corporations trying to sell their intoxicating beverages.
The latest liquor ads are also intoxicating to our youth. These recent media vehicles associated with drinking alcohol focus on utilizing trendy music, enhancing romance, promoting the "coolness" factor and displaying fun entertainment occasions with liquor in the spotlight.
The celebrity actors featured in these branded commercials promote the message that drinking is for those individuals who are successful, confident and have a large social network.
Although beer commercials filmed around swimming pools or backyard barbeques are familiar, the latest entries to attract young drinkers spotlight superstars close to their age who are pushing hard liquor.
For example, the gorgeous Mila Kunis now stars multiple Jim Beam whiskey commercials. Justin Timberlake can be found in trendy and stylish clothes selling tequila. Even rapper Ludacris endorses his Conjure Cognac.
Although these popular celebrities cannot be shown to actually drink the beverage, it is clear that brands like "Hard Lemonade" and "Apple Orchard Hard Cider" are targeting a very young audience not just with their ads, but with their labels, product names, promotions and packaging.
Make no mistake about it. These sexy and enticing new marketing programs are captivating the attention of our youth.
A portion of the adult population doubts the concept that television advertising can actually influence negative behavior, but now there can be no dispute.
The New Study
The latest study, released in January 2015, found that television viewing habits have a powerful influence in child's behavior.
This recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics studied over 2,500 adolescents. The authors found evidence that:
- "seeing and liking alcohol advertising on television among underage youths was associated with the onset of drinking"
- "familiarity with images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking"
- "underage youths (who) are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing... prompts initiation of drinking"
- even more disturbing, the authors concluded from this data that "(not only does exposition to alcohol marketing initiate drinking, it also) transitions from trying to hazardous drinking."
But there is hope. There is always hope.
The Surgeon General's report suggests that The greatest influence on young people's decisions to begin drinking is the world they live in, which includes their families, friends, schools, the larger community, and society as a whole.
- If you are a parent, do not, under any circumstances, purchase alcohol for your underage child
- No one knows your child as well as you do. Although it is "easier said than done," families must be involved and pay attention to the daily activities of their kids
- Parents and guardians cannot be afraid to intervene or confront their child if something appears to be wrong or if there is a change in behavior. It is likely that if you suspect your kid is engaging in dangerous behavior, it is true
- Schools must help educate students on the dangers, repercussions and risks of drug and alcohol use. Role playing assists teenagers on developing strategies when encountering negative peer pressure
- After-school enrichment programs and extra-curricular activities are of critical importance in keeping teenagers busy, motivated and focused
- If you discover your underage offspring is using alcohol, get help as quickly as possible before the behavior escalates. Alcoholism treatment programs can help adolescents transform their behaviors, rebuild their lives and give them the childhood they deserve