Two-thirds of parents think seeing and hearing alcohol advertising makes it more likely that teenagers will drink, and nearly three-fourths say alcohol companies aren’t doing enough to limit exposure of their ads to young people, according to a survey.
Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Georgetown University conducted the survey released last month.
Parents in the study rated teens engaging in risky behavior while under the influence of alcohol as the top problem facing young people today, alongside teens having sex and using illegal drugs. More parents said they would be extremely worried if they knew their teenager had ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking (74 percent) or had been drunk or very high from drinking alcohol (70 percent) than if the teen had smoked marijuana (68 percent) or had sexual intercourse (65 percent).
And while most parents don’t think their teens have actually done those things in the last 12 months, the study found a gap between what parents perceive and teens report. The largest “perception gap” was 29 percent, between the 31 percent of parents who thought their 15-16 year-old had consumed an alcoholic beverage and the 60 percent of teens who reported doing so.
Thirty-five percent of 15-16 year-olds said they had been drunk or very high from alcohol, while just 10 percent of parents felt children in that age group had done so.
Among younger teens, 39 percent of 13-14 year-olds said they had consumed alcohol and 15 percent had been drunk or very high from drinking. Just 12 percent of parents thought their younger teens had been drinking and 5 percent believed they had been drunk.
After being exposed to a number of facts about teens and alcohol, three-fourths of parents said teen alcohol consumption is a big problem in society today. Parents perceive alcohol advertising as having a serious effect on teen drinking habits and believe alcohol companies are falling short in dealing responsibly with the impact of their advertising on young people.
Parents found specific advertising practices very troubling. Those included Web sites produced by alcohol companies that include video games and other features that appeal to young people (65 percent); beer companies advertising on networks where youth are more likely than adults to see the ads (62 percent); and advertising in magazines that are popular among youth (61 percent.)
Young people ages 12-20 see two beer advertisements for every three seen by an adult, according to the study, and they see more magazine alcohol ads in a year than adults. African-American and Hispanic youths are exposed to more alcohol advertising than other youths.
Parents overwhelmingly reject the argument that alcohol companies’ advertising practices are legitimate, because they are trying to make money. More than 80 percent said that because their product is potentially harmful, sellers of alcohol should take steps to avoid exposing young people to messages that encourage alcohol consumption.
“Parents get it that alcohol companies’ ads are not helping them teach their children about the risks of alcohol use,” Jim O’Hara, executive director of Georgetown’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, said in a release. “Parents want accountability and responsibility from the beer and liquor companies.”
Geoffrey Garin of Peter D. Hart Research Associates said the survey results “show a nearly universal view among parents that alcohol companies should be doing more to reduce teens’ exposure.”
Jodi Mathews is news writer for EthicsDaily.com.