The Latest News Update 10/25/11 From Marilyn Belmonte of the Burlington Drug and Alcohol Task Force: re: Alcohol Marketing to Minors on Facebook:
Much of the alcohol-related content on Facebook is available to underage Facebook members, according to a study conducted by the Marin Institute. There are guidelines requiring age restrictions on Facebook but the study found that content promoting alcohol and binge drinking was accessible by underage members in advertisements, pages, applications, events, and groups.
Alcohol companies can buy ad space that allows them to access a user’s profile. The Marin study found that one out of every eight ads contained alcohol and all alcohol-related ads were displayed to under-21 users.
Facebook pages and groups allow members to become fans and therefore stay in touch with their discussions, photos and events. At the time of the study, the ten top beer brands had 93 pages with more than 1.1 million fans. But only 50% of these pages restricted access due to the member’s age. Once a member becomes a fan of these pages, they receive marketing messages on their own Facebook page. None of the Facebook groups about alcohol had age restrictions.
Facebook applications allow users to play games, take quizzes and send special messages to their friends. There are over 500 Facebook applications associated with alcohol. 66% of the alcohol applications are accessible to underage members. These applications allow underage members to send virtual “mixed drinks” or “shots” to other Facebook friends.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing, Facebook violates the industry’s advertising guidelines. Responsible Placement Guideline #2 states “Beverage alcohol products should not be advertised or marketed in any manner directed or primarily appealing to persons below the legal purchase age”. Guideline #3 states “Beverage alcohol advertising and marketing should be placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print, and internet/digital communications only where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be of legal purchase age”.
According to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, numerous studies prove that a greater exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to an increase in drinking among underage youth effect by influencing expectations, attitudes, and creating an environment that promotes underage drinking.
Parents can not assume that websites such as Facebook are going to follow guidelines designed to protect our children. We also can not monitor every step they take on the internet. But we can take the responsibility of talking with our teens about the problems related to underage drinking. Studies prove that parental guidance during adolescence has a major impact in reducing drinking. Parents can offset pro-drinking messages just by having thoughtful discussions with their teens.