Dutch teenagers are flooded with alcohol content on TikTok. Journalists of Pointer created a fake TikTok account for a 13 year old Dutch teenager.
They found that,
- One out of five videos that came across the screen were alcohol-related.
- One out of 20 videos that came across the screen had the alcohol brand clearly visible.
Some TikTok accounts which feature recipes included content creators who use alcohol in their recipes and naming the brand they are using. When Pointer journalists informed STIVA, the organization that regulates alcohol advertising in the Netherlands, they said “it should have been a mistake” since that type of content should not be on TikTok.
When STIVA requested the creators to remove those videos from TikTok they refused to do so saying that alcohol was just an ingredient used in the recipe and that they do not “encourage alcohol use”.
Despite what the creators are saying, displaying any alcohol content can promote it and lead to alcohol use among young people. In one study Hanneke Hendriks, a researcher at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, found that even a post with alcohol just standing on the table, increased the chance of alcohol use among a sample population.
If you see this [alcohol use] often, you start to think it’s normal. And we know young people are very sensitive to social standards. They imitate their peers and role models,” said Hanneke Hendriks, a researcher at the Radboud University in Nijmegen as per, NL Times.Hanneke Hendriks, researcher, Radboud University in Nijmegen
The Netherlands advise to not consume alcohol before 18 years of age. However, half of Dutch teenagers do use alcohol according to Pointer. The average age at which they start using alcohol is 13 years.
A TikTok spokesperson has said that alcohol advertising is prohibited on the app and that users can flag such content. The platform also says that TikTok removes content that violates their Community Guidelines, and that they do not recommend content not suitable for a general audience.
However, evidently lots of alcohol content passes through and reaches the screens of Dutch teens.
I think social media does influence me on a subconscious level. If it would be full of videos saying how bad it is for your health, I would probably be more hesitant to [use alcohol],” said Suus, a Dutch teenager, as per NL Times.Suus, a Dutch teenager
The media laws in the Netherlands are too outdated to better protect people from the alcohol industry on social media. For example, the Dutch Media Authority cannot oversee matters related to social media and alcohol. There does not seem to be adequate political will to change the situation for the better either. While state secretary Maarten van Ooijen has said that the omnipresence of alcohol on young people’s TikTok accounts was “horrible,” and he would look into it, he had also said that “practically speaking” it is hard to reduce such content on social media.
Troubling Depictions of Underage Alcohol Use on TikTok
The researchers Russell and colleagues analyzed content of 100 of the most popular TikTok videos from July 2019 to August 2020 with the hashtag #alcohol. Collectively these videos were viewed over 290 million times, had 40 million likes and more than 2 million shares.
- An overwhelming 98% of these videos contained positive portrayals of alcohol.
- Nearly half of videos (41%) were guide videos demonstrating alcoholic beverage recipes.
- The majority of videos (72%) included liquor.
- Consuming multiple alcoholic beverages quickly was depicted in more than half of videos (61%).
- 69% of videos conveyed positive experiences with alcohol.
- 55% of videos contained humor.
- 45% of videos included associations of alcohol with camaraderie.
- Only 4% described negative alcohol-related consequences. Even these videos did so in a humorous, not educational, manner.
Alcohol marketing, social media and alcohol use
Marketing by the alcohol industry is a major driver of under-age alcohol use. A growing body of scientific findings illustrates that alcohol marketing is:
- Driving youth and underage alcohol consumption;
- Causing earlier initiation to alcohol use; and
- Inciting high-risk alcohol use.
Maik Dünnbier of Movendi International has analyzed the harms of alcohol marketing in his in-depth opinion article “Three Ways Alcohol Marketing Causes Harm and One Effective Solution.”
With social media and internet becoming increasingly popular, digital alcohol marketing has been linked to increased alcohol use.
A recent consumer research found that social media users in the U.S. were more likely to increase their alcohol use during COVID-19 lockdown.