UAlbany Study: Parents Can Play Positive Role in Reducing Underage Drinking

Researchers found that talking about how alcohol is advertised on social media can help prevent alcohol abuse among kids and young adults as they age.

Ioannis Kareklas is an assistant professor of marketing. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 8, 2018) – The causal link for teens between social media use and, among other negative effects, alcohol abuse is enough to discourage even the most dedicated of parents. But, according to a UAlbany study (in collaboration with Washington State University), there is hope.

Among the study’s findings is that parents can influence their children’s attitudes toward alcohol by talking about the influence of advertising in social media, especially as the advertising pertains to alcohol.

By surveying 600 college students, the researchers found that those who experienced “positive parental mediation” while growing up were less likely to abuse alcohol later in life. They were also more likely to develop critical thinking skills, according to Ioannis Kareklas, one of the researchers involved in the study and an assistant professor of marketing at UAlbany.

“Given the changing landscape in social media, it’s highly advisable that parents discuss with their kids what they’re watching on social media and to have a conversation that could help them understand what these brands are trying to do,” said Kareklas.

The participants in the study responded to online surveys over the course of one semester, answering questions about parental involvement regarding their personal media consumption over the years. They were asked to answer questions such as, “How often did your parents tell you about what ads are trying to do?”

Alcoholic-beverage brands frequently use games on Facebook as a platform to reach young audiences, Kareklas said, citing one example of the long reach of social media. Extending that reach even further is the fact that more than 90 percent of teens in the United States go online “very often or on a daily basis,” according to the study, citing the Pew Research Center.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young adults to discern the “persuasive intent” or influence of advertisers, especially in an otherwise seemingly-innocent game, Kareklas said.

“It’s ever more important that parents do have this positive role in discussing the influence of advertising and their exposure to it in social media, and to encourage their kids to make healthy choices,” he said.

The research team also included Marie Louise Radanielina-Hita, a marketing communications professor (and lead author) from the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Bruce Pinkleton, professor and interim dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. Radanielina-Hita is a member of the Ethics Council for the alcoholic beverage industry in Quebec. Their study was published last month by the Journal of Health Communication.

Kareklas’s research focuses on advertising effectiveness, public policy issues related to pro-social behaviors, and sensory perception. His work has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Consumer Affairs, and Journal of Marketing Communications, and Journal of Business Research, among other publications.


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