Dutch teenagers often exposed to alcohol content on TikTok
Journalists at Pointer created a fake TikTok account for a 13-year-old Dutch teenager and found that one out of every five videos that came across the screen were alcohol-related. One out of 20 videos had the alcohol brand clearly visible, according to Pointer.
Experts said this poses a problem, since seeing alcohol and alcohol brands has a measurable influence on teens' drinking habits.
“Even a seemingly innocent post with alcohol just standing on the table, increased the chance of drinking among our test population. And videos like these are much more extreme,” said Hanneke Hendriks, a researcher at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. “If you see this often, you start to think it's normal. And we know young people are very sensitive to social standards. They imitate their peers and role models.”
Despite advice against drinking under the age of 18, half of Dutch teenagers drink, according to Pointer. The average age at which they start drinking alcohol is 13 years old.
“I think social media does influence me on a subconscious level. If it would be full of videos saying how bad it is for your health, I would probably be more hesitant to drink," Suus, a Dutch teenager, told Pointer.
Some recipe accounts on TikTok show content creators using alcohol in their cooking and naming the brand of the drink. Pointer journalists showed these videos to STIVA, the organization that regulates alcohol advertising in the Netherlands.
“I think someone made a mistake here...this is not supposed to be on TikTok," said STIVA director Peter de Wolf, in response to the videos.
Creators justified the videos by saying the alcohol was just an ingredient used in baking and rejected STIVA's request to remove the recipe videos. “We never encourage the use of alcohol."
A TikTok spokesperson told Pointer that alcohol advertising is prohibited on the app and that users can flag such content. “In addition to removing content that violates our Community Guidelines, we try not to recommend certain categories of content that may not be appropriate for a general audience," they said.
The Dutch Media Authority cannot oversee matters related to social media and alcohol, since the media law was drawn up some time ago and does not cover it, a spokesperson told Pointer. State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen told Pointer the omnipresence of alcohol on young people's TikTok accounts was "horrible," saying he would look into it but "practically speaking" it is hard to reduce such content on social media.
"We know the effects of marketing on the use of alcohol are huge, so we should not want our kids to see this," Van Ooijen said.