Alcohol in one-fifth of TikTok videos teenagers see, researchers claim
Almost a fifth of the videos a fictional 13-year-old sees on TikTok contain alcohol, Pointer reports based on its own research. The program created a TikTok account as a 13-year-old, fed the algorithm with searches like “drink challenge” and “mixing drinks,” and saw over 200 videos featuring alcohol in an hour.
Dutch law forbids advertising alcohol or showing alcohol for a fee on TV before 9:00 p.m. to protect children. This law does not apply to social media. But even if it did, it is not clear whether the videos on TikTok are advertising alcohol or whether the content creators simply like featuring alcohol in their posts, Pointer wrote.
The alcohol industry told Pointer that it does not advertise on TikTok. The social media platform said that alcohol advertising is banned on its platform. One content creator told Pointer: “If only I were paid for it.” He makes videos called “Shot of the week,” translated from Dutch, for his own brand awareness, he said. He knows minors see his videos, he said.
Radboud University researcher Hanneke Hendriks told Pointer that whether or not something is an ad does not matter for what influence it has on young people’s alcohol use. “Even a fairly innocent post, in which alcohol is only on the table, turned out to increase the chance that young people would drink, and these kinds of videos are much more extreme.”
State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen of Public Health called Pointer’s findings “dramatic.” “We should not want children to see this,” he said to the program. He will look into addressing the issue but is not very hopeful. “Practically, reducing this in an online social media environment is very complicated. So it won’t be easy to get this off the children’s feeds.”