PITTSBURGH — Perhaps YouTube should change its name to BoozeTube. That’s because the popular video site just happens to do a good job at glamorizing alcohol use, with clips often portraying the “fun side of drinking,” a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined 137 YouTube videos with a combined 97 million views that showcased a varied selection of alcohol types and brands popular with underage drinkers.
Forty percent of videos were simply ads produced for alcohol brands — such as the old Budweiser frog commercials or the “brilliant!” Guinness spots. About 20 percent of the videos were “guides” in which a person discussed useful information such as serving tips or the pros and cons of a particular brand; while about 10 percent simply depicted men flaunting their ability to chug.
The team found that alcohol was often used in the clips for comedic purposes, with 47 percent of the videos containing humor.
Nineteen percent of the videos showed at least one person who appeared drunk.
While the authors can’t be sure just how many underage teens or young children have watched these clips, they can still be easily accessed. That said, they don’t believe banning such videos from YouTube is necessary.
“However, knowing about this content should help us develop appropriate educational programs,” says lead researcher Dr. Brian Primack in a press release.
Although most of the alcohol ads examined seemed to have been uploaded by regular users, Primack believes that manufacturers are somewhat complicit, in that they create entertaining ads meant to be shared online, whether on YouTube or social media.
Perhaps due to the pervasiveness of alcohol ads, Primack doesn’t believe that it would be very effective for parents to play too heavy of a hand.
“We’re not suggesting that young people should never see these videos or that parents say, ‘You’re never using the internet again,’” he explains.
Rather, parents can help advise their kids on the countless manipulative tactics through which alcohol companies try to manufacture interest.
“Parents can be important purveyors of media literacy,” Primack argues. “They can help their kids become more critical thinkers about what they see in ads.”
The full study was published last month in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.