Researchers have found that messaging about the pandemic in alcohol advertising has risked normalising the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism.
The University of Queensland has released research on how alcohol advertisers are using social media to encourage parents to drink during COVID-19.
It found that on average, a social media user is exposed to an alcohol advertisement every 35 seconds.
“Parents, especially mothers, have shared an influx of memes on social media about using alcohol to cope with the stress of the pandmeic such as ‘maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but I swear it’s gonna take a vineyard to homeschool one’,” author of the report Dr Janni Leung said.
“These posts risk normalising the use of alcohol as a coping strategy and promoting the false belief that alcohol is good for mental health.”
Of particular concern is the way alcohol has been depicted in ‘memes’ on social media.
Leung pointed to one such image, which said “maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but I swear it’s gonna take a vineyard to homeschool one”.
“These posts risk normalising the use of alcohol as a coping strategy and promoting the false belief that alcohol is good for mental health,” she said.
While alcohol advertising on TV and radio is highly-regulated, the same cannot be said about social media.
Dr Leung said now is the time to regulate how alcohol is depicted on social media.
“Most people believe this system is government-funded, however, it is actually an industry-funded, quasi-regulatory structure that is contested by consumer complaints and lacks systematic independent monitoring,” Dr Leung said.
“It is questionable how well Australia’s regulatory system protects parents and other targeted populations at risk from exposure to constant encouragements to drink during these challenging times.
“We hope to bring awareness of this issue to parents, government, health care professionals and service providers, so changes are made to the regulation system for alcohol advertising.”
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