Substance Abuse Prevention and Media Literacy Prevention

Recent research suggests that the media is becoming an increasingly important influence in the lives of young people. A recent study published by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation (Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005) reports that the U.S. children, 8-18 years of age, spend an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes per day engaged in media-related activities such as watching television, listening to music, or playing video games. This number is likely to increase as new developments are made in the field of media technology.

The following information outlines the pervasiveness of alcohol advertising and the use of media literacy as a substance abuse intervention.

Alcohol Advertising and Youth

"Research clearly indicates that, in addition to parents and peers, alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on youth decisions to drink..." (from The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University's "Alcohol Advertising and Youth")

Media Literacy as a Substance Use Intervention

Pro-alcohol messages are pervasive in the media. According to the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY, 2006), children view between 10% and 33% more advertisements for various types of alcohol in magazines than adults. In addition, a report by the Federal Trade Commission found that, in 2004, children 2-20 years of age saw an average of 196.6 television advertisements for alcohol per year. Sadly, despite public concern over the prevalence of alcohol advertising featured during shows with primarily underage audiences, this number indicates an increase of 33% in the number of such advertisements viewed by children since 2001 (Ippolito, 2005, as found in CAMY, 2006). Children see advertisements for alcohol in nearly all forms of media, not just television.

Increasingly, concern over the amount of alcohol advertising viewed by children has prompted research examining the link between media exposure and substance use. A recent longitudinal study (Ellickson, Collins, Hambarsoomians, & McCaffrey, 2005) found that middle school students who reported greater exposure to alcohol advertising were more likely to drink alcohol in high school than those who reported less exposure. Since children spend so much of their time engaged with the media, which is laden with pro-alcohol messages, interventions targeted at equipping youth with the tools to resist the persuasive content of media messages is a necessary step in addressing the problem of underage drinking.

The following sections describe media literacy and the use of media literacy education as an approach to substance use prevention:



Rideout, V., Roberts, D. F., & Foehr, U. G. (2005).  Generation M: Media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds.  Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.