Alcohol in the Media Tips

It's in kids' movies, games, and TV, but alcohol marketing can be tamed. See our conversation starters. By Caroline Knorr

Your kids and teens get all sorts of messages about drinking and drugs from the media. And mostly what they see is that it’s fun and exciting and it’s what celebrities and popular people do. Not only do they see alcohol ads on TV, but also drinking and drunkenness on shows and movies targeting teens. Alcohol companies also target teens by using new media that’s interactive, including social networks, viral videos, mobile cell phone updates, and downloadable apps. The viral nature of the Web allows advertisers to reach kids directly with an addictive game or funny video -- and in ways that kids may not recognize as advertising.

There is a direct link between role models and advertising, and the effect that both have on your kids’ behavior. Alcohol companies know this, and that’s why they go after your kids. The more alcohol ads young people see, the more they drink. According to one 2006 study, each additional dollar alcohol companies spend on advertising raises the number of drinks youths consume by 3 percent.

Studies have shown that the more kids drink before their brains are fully developed (in their early 20s), the more likely they are to develop lifelong alcohol dependencies. In fact, kids who start drinking before they turn 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than adults who begin drinking at 21. But parents can mitigate these statistics. A 2010 study by Dartmouth Medical School showed that parents who restrict R-rated movies (where alcohol is often part of the story) actually counteract the peer pressure on their kids to start drinking.

Parent tips for elementary school kids

  • Keep them away from alcohol ads. Mute the ads when they come on. Especially the funny ones because the kids remember them and repeat them. One recent study showed that elementary kids could name almost all the alcohol brands showed to them but could only identify two past presidents.

Parent tips for middle and high school kids

  • Spell it out. Let your kids know about marketing and that alcohol advertisers are trying to hook them on their brands – just to get more money in their pockets. Help your children decode ads’ messages: What kind of lifestyle are they selling? Do these ads tell the whole story – or do they leave something out (such as DUIs, addiction, liver disease, etc.)?
  •  Moderate alcohol on TV. You have a right to say no to programs that seem to celebrate teen drinking or show too many alcohol ads. This goes for movies, radio stations, magazines, and Web sites, too. Check out our reviews to see how a program portrays alcohol, then set your own rules.
  • Look for teachable moments. If you’re watching a TV show, and there’s a scene featuring teen drinking, or you read about a celebrity arrested for doing drugs, check in with your kids. Ask them about if their peers are using alcohol, or if they have any anxieties or questions about drinking. Take time to share your opinions – and expectations – about teens and drinking.
  • Watch your messages. Be a good role model by not being drunk in front of your kids or by not using alcohol to escape problems. Make sure that you don’t glamorize alcohol or drugs by sharing stories about “wild days” in your past.
  • Keep an eye on alcohol ads embedded in new media. You don’t want your kids to follow Smirnoff on Facebook or Twitter, download the latest Budweiser mobile app, or be influenced by other ways that alcohol companies are embedding their messages.


About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more
I love watching sports games with my kids, but hate all the beer commercials. What can I do?

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Comments (7)

Teen, 13 years old written by internetlovingteen

Ha. My personal theory is that teenagers drink when they're teens because they've always been told that alcohol is bad for you. So, a lot of times it's rebellion. Advertising doesn't affect us teenagers all as much as people seem to think.
Teen, 16 years old written by Andro-A

Yes but saying that kids who know beer brands are stupid is wrong, when I was 10 I knew all the beer brands but I could also name all the capitals in the world.
Adult written by KalebCross

Viewing promotion of alcohol or other drugs done by celebrities attracts many kids to fell in their trap. They think it’s fun and exciting without knowing the consequence on their health. It’s very important that parents should make them aware about these things and put eye on their activities. If the situation gets out of control then instead of wasting too much time, they should take help of rehab center like or any other rehab present in their locality. Such rehab centers have experts that provide good treatment to get patient back to normal life.
Adult written by Senser123

I feel that alcohol as a whole should no longer be seen in advertising and all media it should be like tobacco smoking products being banned from TV advertising in the 1970s exepct in anti-drug PSA's on the drinking subject even more so than in the past.
Adult written by JasonCarpenter12

An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you should write more about this issue, it might not be a taboo subject but usually people do not talk about such subjects. To the next! All the best!!
Adult written by Sunny tewathia

Programs like this which promotes the use of alcohol and other harmful drinks for humans should be banned as soon as possible. Harmful Effects of Energy Drinks on the body