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Know! How to
Even the Playing Field for Your Child
The NFL and its advertisers are gearing up for the Super Bowl, set to
kickoff Sunday, Feb. 5. About 111.9 million viewers tuned in for last
year’s Super Bowl, making it the third highest watched U.S. broadcast
in history. The upcoming Super Bowl is expected to catch just as much
attention for the commercials as much as the game itself. Of that wide
viewing audience, somewhere around 18 percent will be youth under 21 –
which means millions of children will be exposed to a variety of
advertising, including commercials for alcohol.
In its quest to further research the impact of alcohol advertising on
youth, the Drug Free Action Alliance annually hosts the Big Bowl Vote,
where middle and high school students nationwide are asked to vote on
their favorite commercials and share the product brands they recall
being advertised. Without fail, alcohol ads consistently rank in the
top three each year, among both age groups, as either favorites or most
What’s the big deal? Many young people look to media to help them
define who they are and what they want to become. They count on the
glamourous and cool characters depicted in ads to help them determine
what behaviors are normal and what lifestyle choices will give them
their desired outcomes of acceptance and inclusion or maybe excitement
and fun. In any case, studies show that an increase in exposure to
alcohol advertising contributes to an increase in drinking among
Underage drinking negatively affects developing brains, increases risk
for addiction later in life, impacts decision-making and puts youth in
danger. Alcohol contributes to youth suicides, homicides and fatal
injuries - the leading cause of death among youth following auto
crashes. Alcohol abuse is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual
assaults and date rapes of teens and college students. Youth who drink
are more likely to become sexually active (putting them at greater risk
of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases). Teen girls
who binge drink are 63 percent more likely to get pregnant during their
teen years. Students who use alcohol are five times more likely to drop
out of school or believe that earning good grades is not important. So
yes - exposure to alcohol advertising and underage drinking - it is a
Ideally, as parents, we would simply steer our children clear of all
such advertising. However, the attempt would be not only impossible,
but unhelpful. What children can benefit from instead, is us teaching
them to decode the advertising messages they see and hear in song
lyrics, TV shows, movies, advertisements and so forth, therefore
decreasing media’s power and influence – this is called media literacy.
Instead of avoiding the upcoming Super Bowl, you are encouraged to
watch it with your children, turning the much-anticipated ads into
When the commercials come on, ask your child to pay close attention,
then pick one and pose these questions to fuel their critical thinking:
Who do you think created this commercial?
What techniques did they use to get your attention?
What do they want you to do after seeing their message?
Would this be a healthy choice for you?
Do you think your health and safety are important to the ad sponsor?
How do you feel about it now?
It doesn’t have to be an alcohol ad to be a learning experience. The
key is to teach your child that no matter the product being promoted,
there is an advertiser with an intended message, and that it is up to
your child to think critically to interpret that message and apply it
to his or her life appropriately. These questions only scratch the
surface when it comes to media literacy. But they’re a great start.
To learn more about the Big Bowl Vote or delve deeper into media
literacy, please visit Drug Free Action Alliance at
Learn how to get the conversation started at StartTalking.Ohio.Gov
Source: Drug Free Action Alliance: Big Bowl Vote.