A new study by U.K. researchers suggest YouTube music videos may harmfully influence adolescents.
The investigation was an extension of a prior study which found that UK teenagers were heavily exposed to images of alcohol and tobacco in YouTube music. Researchers believe the viewing experience effectively glamorizes and promotes underage drinking and smoking.
Now, the researchers have specifically studied the portrayal of alcohol content in popular YouTube music videos, analyzing song lyrics and visual imagery. Investigators reviewed 49 U.K. Top 40 videos previously found to contain alcohol content.
They found that content involving alcohol was also associated with sexualized imagery or lyrics and the objectification of women, and that alcohol was linked to personal image, lifestyle, and sociability.
Some videos also showed encouragement of excessive drinking including those with branded alcohol, with no negative consequences to the drinker shown.
The study appears in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Psychologist Dr. Joanne Cranwell, from the University of Nottingham and lead author of the study said: “Adolescent alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, is a significant health problem in the U.K.
“Among young people particularly it is also linked to criminal behavior, unprotected sex, progression to illegal drug use, and is a risk factor for alcohol dependence in later life.
In the U.K., 11 percent of 15- 16-year-olds out of a sample of 2,000 had had sex under the influence of alcohol and regretted it and almost 10 percent of boys and 12 percent of girls reported having unsafe sex after drinking.
“We know that alcohol imagery and references in advertising, films, TV, and music videos are a risk factor for uptake of drinking in young people but we wanted to pin down the exact extent and type of content.”
Cranwell used the Official Singles Chart U.K. Top 40 to explore the true extent to which alcohol is being portrayed and whether U.K. alcohol industry advertising codes of practice are being violated.
The study also found that the overt use of celebrity endorsement or brand ambassadors of alcohol products in music videos appears to contravene voluntary codes of practice.
The U.K. Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies is calling for new measures to try to curb the inclusion of smoking and drinking content in YouTube music videos, which unlike TV and film, are not classified according to age suitability.
Researchers believe artists and music video producers should change their policy of effectively glamorizing and normalizing excessive drinking and linking it with sexual attractiveness and luxury lifestyle.
The study suggests several alcohol companies have adopted marketing strategies that contravene their own advertising codes of practice.
As such, researchers call for the music industry to implement new standards to reduce the use of branded and generic alcohol content in videos.