Alcohol, Media and Kids

Pavlov was a Russian scientist that trained his dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. He observed that when he fed his dog it started to drool. Then he rang a bell. So he did it again. He fed his dog. The dog started to drool. Then he rang a bell. He kept doing this. After a while, he didn’t feed the dog. He just rang a bell. What did the dog do? It drooled.

How many times did he have to feed the dog and ring the bell before he didn’t need the food anymore to get the dog to drool? Twenty-three times. Most American teens see hundreds of thousands of ads for the most popular soft drinks by the time they turn 18.  A kid will be exposed to 100,000 ads for alcohol on TV and radio; in magazines and newspapers by the time he or she turns 19.

There are also the myths the alcohol industry wants us to believe. These messages work to convince people that alcohol is magic. These ads tell us alcohol can make us successful, sophisticated and even sexy. Without it, life is dull, ordinary and boring.

Everyone wants to believe in happy endings. But as most of us know, for many people alcohol is more like a horror story than a fairy tale. We are surrounded by messages that drinking is fun, sexy, desirable and harmless. It's easy to identify these messages when they appear in advertisements and commercials, but we also get less obvious messages from other media – in films, music videos, television shows, sporting events and even songs. This is because many media companies depend on alcohol advertising for a large share of their profits. As a result, alcohol use is often glorified in the media, and alcohol problems are seldom seen.

The primary purpose of the mass media is to deliver audiences to advertisers. In fact, magazines, radio stations and TV stations work hard to attract advertising dollars from all kinds of companies, including those that sell alcoholic beverages.

Most people know alcohol can cause problems. But did you know that 10% of all deaths in the United States - including half of all murders and at least one quarter of all suicides - are related to alcohol? It costs more than $100 billion each year to deal with the negative consequences of drinking.

According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), underage drinking cost the state of South Dakota $234.4 million in 2013. Not all problem drinkers are alcoholics, and not all teenagers drink. But teens that do drink are more likely than adults to binge drink, making young people a lucrative market for alcohol producers. The annual sales of alcohol consumed by youth in South Dakota averages $1,244 per underage customer.

It is important to talk to your children, not only about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, but also about resisting the “myths” that advertisers work so hard to tell.

Information for this article was found at and