A recent study from the Boston University School of Medicine and Public Health demonstrated a direct correlation between a child’s exposure to alcohol advertising and their likelihood to drink as a result.
“For a long time, a lot of people said, ‘well, advertising doesn’t make a difference,’ when it comes to the impact on underage drinking,” noted Timothy Naimi, the lead researcher in the study.
However, now there is a good body of evidence showing that kids who are exposed to particular brand of advertising are more likely to drink that brand.
The Children Are Watching
Many parents tend to enjoy sports and typically think nothing of sitting down in front of the TV with their kids for some leisure time, rooting on the home team. Of course, we laugh at the ridiculous commercials that are broadcast in between breaks of the action – many of them sponsored by alcohol companies, unfortunately.
However, this recent study made me realize that, like with most things in life, parents could turn this negative into a positive and make it a real teaching moment.
As an example, parents can stop the TV every so often during a commercial break, to explain the dangers of underage drinking, the importance of adults drinking responsibly and the challenges many people face with addiction.
My hope is that by presenting this serious issue in a leisurely environment, we can better communicate the message. We are encouraged by a 2016 Roper Youth Report which suggests that parents yield 71 times more influence over their children’s decisions to drink versus advertising, and a recent national survey by Responsibility.org that reached a similar conclusion.
Children are exposed to a lot in life without us, but we can effectively counteract much of it most of the time, by taking the opportunity to take responsibility.
What’s The Message Being Sent?
Likewise, I think all of us in the addiction treatment community should get involved in helping communicate the message to the public at large. To begin with, alcohol advertisers need to be held accountable for their advertising content.
They of course have the right to advertise and exercise their free speech, but should do so mindful of the impact they have on all members of society.
Second, and more importantly, parents cannot take their children’s coming of age for granted. It’s vital for parents to engage in their kids’ personal growth and development because it’s the parents who wield the strongest influence.
It is our involvement that will make all the difference in limiting underage drinking, binge drinking, and alcoholism for the coming generation.