Advertising alcohol through various media platforms such as television, print, billboards, and online ads is a common practice. Alcohol advertisements promote drinking as a cool habit, that is fun. Portrayal of intoxication under the wrappings of glamor attracts young people to develop underage drinking habits. The habit is extremely harmful as it can cause unsafe sexual behaviors, injuries, aggressive behaviors, and improper brain functioning, at a growing age.
Underage drinking can also affect a young individual’s learning pattern and can have a negative impact on his/her academic achievements in school.
In this article, we will analyze how alcohol media literacy can educate young people about the healthy and correct alcohol consumption.
What Is Alcohol Media Literacy?
Alcohol media literacy is a medium for bridging the gap between exposure to alcohol-related advertisements and the consequent behavior in young adults after the exposure. It makes the young adults more aware of the choices they make, consciously and unconsciously, under the influence of alcohol-based media communications.
How Is Younger Generation Exposed To Alcohol Advertisements?
Earlier, young adults formed their perception of alcohol entirely from storytellers including family members, elders, community members, and other individuals they met on a daily basis. However, today, this perception is majorly formed through media outlets such as television, movies, the Internet, and the newspapers.
Let’s analyze how this happens:
- Alcohol industry had spent $1.59 billion on alcohol beverage advertising in 2016. These advertisements are broadcasted on media platforms which are popular amongst the young people. Additionally, the glamorization of alcohol consumption on advertisements affects the youth and leads them to develop the habit of drinking alcohol at an early age.
- Teenagers, who encounter the heavy use of alcohol in movies and on television, are more prone to alcohol consumption at a young age.
Why Is Alcohol Media Literacy Important?
A Taiwanese study involving 2992 children studying in the 10th grade were asked to complete a questionnaire. Based on the analysis of the results, it was revealed that the students, who had high exposure to tobacco and alcohol media, were more susceptible to develop underage drinking and smoking. However, the students who had high alcohol media literacy were less likely to resort to smoking and drinking habits, at the same age.
Students, who understand that media does not always dispense the truth, are less likely to adopt unhealthy behaviors. Since alcohol media literacy can impart this understanding, it makes young adults more resilient and encourages them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
The media literacy sessions, workshops, and programs can change the way of viewing advertisements. Media and advertisements use persuasive appeal to have both long-term and short-term impact on children and adults, alike. When children are subjected to alcohol media literacy, they develop a resistance mechanism. This counter-arguing and cognitive resistance enable young people to question consumption of alcohol even months after completion of alcohol media literacy course.
One study analyzed the influence of media literacy on 3rd-grade children. When the 225 children, who participated in the study, were educated about the alcohol ads in media, a significant behavioral change was observed in them. The children understood the persuasive intent of these ads and subsequently stated had a reduced desire for trying alcohol, and were less likely to draw a positive conclusion from the broadcasted alcohol advertisements.
Another research, evaluating 252, 9th-grade students and 326, 12th-grade students, figured out that constant exposure to persuasive alcohol-related ads could increase the risk of underage drinking. The study later suggested that media literacy for both parents and children could reduce underage alcohol consumption.
Advertisements in media are aimed at creating a positive notion around use and consumption of alcohol. Hence, children, from a very young age, start perceiving it as a positive habit rather than a negative one. As these alcohol expectancies become more positive with age, the desire for alcohol experimentation also increases. To have children develop negative expectancies towards alcohol, enhanced media literacy is required.
How Can Parents Help?
- Firstly, for younger children, parents can reduce the exposure to media to limit exposure to alcohol advertisements.
- Secondly, talk to your child about what they see in media related to alcohol comparing it with the actual situation. Children should know the bad impact and side effects that alcohol can have on our health.
- Lastly, one of biggest way to help your child create a negative expectancy towards alcohol is to answer their curiosity. Tell them who made the ad, why they did it, why the use of alcohol is harmful to our health, and what messages alcohol media advertisements are trying to convey. If young adults know from an early age that the media is using persuasive appeal towards alcohol to sell a product and earn profits it can help them resist the use of alcohol.
How Can Alcohol Media Literacy Help Children?
1. Analysing Media Critically
Alcohol media literacy will enable your child to understand why a certain message is displayed, what the ad is trying to convey, and how they can make their own opinion about the use of alcohol.
2. Purchasing Products Smartly
Media literacy helps children to analyze their purchase decisions. They become smart buyers and know how to curb these persuasive appeals. This not only reduces alcohol misuse but also creates a resistance towards persuasive techniques used by marketers.
3. Evaluating the Point Of View
Every author has a point of view. Understanding this perspective can help young adults gain information different from what they already believe in. Having full knowledge can make a difference.
4. Recognizing Media’s Role
Media uses influential appeal by casting celebrities and popular faces to make people believe in alcohol and shape their idea of its use. Recognizing that this is just an act of increasing sales, we can reduce the use of alcohol.
Executing alcohol media literacy programs in schools and conveying the message at home, regularly, is the most essential part of creating awareness about this issue. Initially, it will be a challenge for the school authorities, parents, and children. However, with constant efforts, children can learn how to read between the lines and understand the motive behind the alcohol media communications.