Did you know that three out of every four students have already tried alcohol even before completing high school?
Alcohol consumption is not uncommon in adolescents or high-school students. Media messages and advertisements repeatedly expose students to appealing portrayals of alcohol consumption, which causes them to want to try alcoholic beverages. This is known to be a major cause of alcohol abuse, illness, injury, poor grades, and bad behavior in adolescents.
Although many factors influence the use of alcohol, media communications and portrayals contribute to a great extent. This makes alcohol media literacy a necessary part of any curriculum of school-based alcohol and drug prevention programs.
In this article, we will evaluate how media can influence adolescents to consume alcohol and what educational institutions can do to stop or minimize such influence.
How Media Encourages Alcohol Abuse?
From movies and television shows to advertisements and commercials, every type of media communication can have a profound effect on young and impressionable individuals. This is especially true when they involve the use of alcohol. The appealing setup and popular actors enable youngsters to perceive alcohol consumption as a necessary and desirable part of their lives.
Here are some factors which encourage young people to abuse alcohol:
- Young adults who regularly watch television or movies are more likely to start consuming alcohol at an early age. The reason behind this is the glamorization of alcohol use in movies, which encourages youngsters to believe that alcohol use can make them look attractive and confident.
- In 2009, research revealed that alcohol companies spend USD 1.7 billion on advertisements. That amount has only grown over the decade that has passed. All the money spent on alcohol advertisements is used to provoke adolescents to start alcohol consumption.
One effective method for reducing alcohol consumption among adolescents, by encouraging them to think critically about portrayals of alcohol consumption in the media, is alcohol media literacy. If these programs are successfully implemented in schools, a reduction in substance abuse and unhealthy habits can be observed.
What Is Alcohol Media Literacy?
Alcohol media literacy is evaluating, analyzing, and understanding the motivations behind digital media communications and messages. It helps adolescents assess the quality and authenticity of the media they are consuming. Some aspects of alcohol media literacy are:
- What is being propagated by the media?
- Whether or not it is true?
- Why media messages are constructed in a certain manner?
- Who is the target audience?
Understanding and analyzing these questions helps young adults to better process the context of messages propagated by the media. This reduces the chances of underage drinking and other unhealthy behaviors.
How Alcohol Media Literacy Helps in Preventing Alcohol Abuse?
Many studies carried out on the effectiveness of alcohol media literacy revealed that it could improve the critical thinking abilities of children and teenagers. This helps them become more resistant to messages promoting the use or consumption of alcohol. In fact, the effects can be seen even years after attending a program that taught alcohol media literacy. This long-term impact also eventually enables students to resist peer pressure and other types of coercion and persuasion with regards to alcohol consumption.
A particular study meant to find the relevance of alcohol media literacy programs explained that these sessions can lessen the desire for alcohol consumption in children. The students from 3rd grade were resistant to alcohol use after attending the intervention and they were less likely to rate alcohol-related media as positive.
It was further explained that regular intervention by parents paired with alcohol media literacy can reduce the impact of late-night parties, sports, shows, and music on the incidence of underage drinking. This also highlights the importance of parental involvement in delivering and promoting alcohol media literacy.
In yet another study, 14-19 year olds from two clinics were analyzed. The students were analyzed for covariate-adjusted bivariate relationships, alcohol use measures, expectancies, and health literacy. In total, 293 children were studied and 45 percent of them had consumed alcohol in the past six months. The study concluded that students who received alcohol media literacy training were less likely to try alcohol than their peers. It enabled adolescents to understand and process information delivered through the media.
Key Aspects of Alcohol Media Literacy Programs
Alcohol media literacy helps young adults to evaluate, analyze and process information shown on the media. Studies even found that early exposure to media literacy can make children less vulnerable to self-destructive behaviors when they grow up.
Let’s discuss the key aspects of implementing alcohol media literacy:
- Assess and Evaluate
Educational institutions should find relevant data for developing students’ trust in the program. This information should be thoroughly checked for quality and relevance. The point of view of the data should be checked in accordance with the audience to have maximum impact.
- Reflect and Act
Parents should be taught to reflect the practices of the media literacy program in real life. Considering the impact alcohol abuse can have on youngsters, the teachings of an alcohol media literacy program should be practically followed for increased impact.
Lastly, educators and parents should work in collaboration to reduce underage alcohol consumption. Problems at home and school should be analyzed and a solution should be offered to students through two-way communication.
Underage consumption of alcohol can make youngsters aggressive, distracted, mean, and unhealthy. Furthermore, alcohol consumption can also promote risky behaviors such as drinking and driving or unprotected sexual intercourse.
Alcohol media literacy is an effective means of reducing alcohol abuse as it teaches students about the importance of thinking critically about advertisements and movies that glamorize alcohol consumption. This can help teens avoid alcohol and build strong personal belief systems. However, for maximum effectiveness, the program should involve active communication, query resolution, and frequent follow-ups.