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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

North Texas: Researchers to Help Parents, Kids Talk About Social Media and Drinking

Parents can be one of the best deterrents to underage drinking by having knowledge of and talking to their kids about alcohol content presented on social networking sites, say two University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) public health researchers who are leading a new National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) study focused on teen and young adult alcohol interventions.

UNTHSC associate professor Dr. Dana M. Litt, and UNTHSC professor Dr. Melissa A. Lewis, recently received a three-year, $630,000 NIAAA grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This project continues the work their teams have previously been involved with to combat drinking among youth ages 15-20.

In their previous work, the researchers found that social media can have a tremendous impact on teens’ and young adults’ perceptions and behaviors regarding alcohol.

This innovative new project involves the first parent-based intervention to be developed focusing on the role of social networking sites in teen and young adult alcohol use.

“Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and others can present messages encouraging drinking and making it look cool and fun,” Dr. Litt said. “Emojis, slang terms, even pictures of friends, peers or acquaintances sipping what appears to be alcoholic beverages at parties can all make drinking seem like the thing to do.”

“Online posts by celebrities and social media influencers that kids might admire and follow can also reflect and encourage drinking,” Dr. Litt said. “Parents may not necessarily get the implications or speak that language, but those who have that awareness can be very important in shaping the ways their kids interpret alcohol-related posts they see on social media.”

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