Factors Associated with Younger Adolescents' Exposure to Online Alcohol Advertising

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on November 28, 2016

by Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Steven Martino, Rebecca L. Collins, William Shadel, Anagha Alka Tolpadi, Stephanie Kovalchik, Kirsten Becker

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Research Questions

  1. What percentage of younger adolescents report any type of exposure to online alcohol advertising in the past two weeks?
  2. What is the average weekly rate of exposure among this population?
  3. What types of online alcohol advertisements do youth report seeing?
  4. What individual, peer, parent, and social media factors may increase youths' risk of exposure to online alcohol advertising?

Little is known about the extent and nature of youth exposure to online alcohol advertising, or factors that may be associated with exposure. The current study recruited middle school students who completed a paper survey and then logged each alcohol advertisement that they encountered over a 2-week period using cell phones as part of an ecological momentary assessment design. We examined the percentage of youth who reported exposure to online alcohol advertising in the past 2 weeks, average weekly rate of exposure, types of online alcohol advertisements youth reported seeing, and factors that increased youths' risk of exposure to online alcohol advertising. Analyses are based on 485 participants (47% female; 25% Hispanic, 25% White, 27% Black; 6% Asian, 16% other). Youth logged exposures to a total of 3,966 (16,018 weighted for underreporting) alcohol advertisements across the monitoring period; 154 (568 weighted) or 3.6% were online ads. Seventeen percent of youth reported seeing any online alcohol ad; the majority of online ads seen were video commercials (44.8%) and banner/side ads (26.6%). Factors associated with greater ad exposure were being older, rebellious, and Black race; greater parental monitoring and more hours spent on social media were associated with less exposure. Findings provide important information about adolescents' exposure to online alcohol advertising and what might contribute to a greater likelihood of exposure. Given that online ad exposure is linked to drinking behavior, prevention programming for younger adolescents should continue to address this issue to help youth make healthy choices regarding alcohol use.

Key Findings

  • Being older and being Black were associated with increased exposure to online alcohol advertising, whereas specifying "other" as one's racial/ethnic background (i.e., not Hispanic, White, or Asian) was associated with less exposure to online advertising.
  • As expected, greater parental monitoring was associated with decreased exposure to online alcohol advertising.
  • Parental education was also significant, whereby youth with more highly educated parents reported more exposure to online alcohol advertising.
  • Surprisingly, greater hours spent on social media was associated with less exposure to online alcohol advertising.

Recommendation

  • Given that online ad exposure is associated with drinking behavior and that some youth may be more receptive to this type of marketing, prevention programming for younger adolescents should continue to address this issue to help youth make healthy choices regarding drinking behavior.

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