If kids only watched YouTube for insights into drinking, they’d get a very slanted view, new research shows.
The study found alcohol intake is typically shown only as fun, with none of the downsides.
Researchers analyzed 137 YouTube videos that featured alcohol brands popular with underage drinkers. The videos had been viewed nearly 97 million times, and 1 in 10 depicted chugging, the investigators said.
“Our aim is not to say we should be censoring this,” said lead researcher Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.
However, “knowing about this content should help us develop appropriate educational programs,” he added.
The alcohol products ranged from beer to vodka to cognac. Forty percent of the videos were conventional ads, while others featured someone highlighting a particular product and perhaps suggesting recipes.
The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
There is no way to know how many of the tens of millions of viewers were underage, Primack said.
Parents don’t need to say “no more internet,” Primack noted in a journal news release. But he said they should try to educate their children about alcohol ads.
They should also explain that alcohol companies try to manipulate people by suggesting alcohol helps people socialize and have fun, he added.
“Parents can be important purveyors of media literacy,” Primack said. “They can help their kids become more critical thinkers about what they see in ads.”
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains how parents can prevent children from drinking.