A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reveals that UK teens are excessively exposed to tobacco and alcohol images and lyrics via YouTube musical videos, something health experts see as inappropriate for teens and young adults.
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The study exposes the fact that while there are regulatory controls in place vetting TV and radio adverts and musical video content, there is no such controls in place for internet videos posted online – most of which contain heavy tobacco and alcohol content.
The study was conducted November 3, 2013 and January 19, 2014 via two online surveys of British teens and adults to determine their levels of exposure to inappropriate content in the 32 most popular music videos of top 40 chart songs in the UK within the stipulated period.
The total number of alcohol/tobacco images, depictions, and lyrics were estimated as “impressions” for the 32 musical videos. About 2,068 teenagers aged 11-18 years took part in the surveys, and 2,232 adults aged 19 years and above participated in the research – suggesting that an average 22% of teens watched the 32 videos and 6% adults did the same.
Since the videos were accessible on YouTube 7-10 months after release, the researchers calculated that alcohol had 1006 million impressions and tobacco had 203 million impressions to British residents between the time the videos were released and when the surveys were taken.
To this extent, the authors of the study found that teens between the age of 13-15 watched tobacco content 11.48 of the time while those aged 16-18 did 10.5 of the time; and adults only did 2.85. However, 65% of young girls aged 13-15 years of age was exposed to these inappropriate content compared to boys and adults.
"If these levels of exposure were typical, then in 1 year, music videos would be expected to deliver over 4 billion impressions of alcohol, and nearly 1 billion of tobacco, in Britain alone," the researchers wrote.
"Further, the number of impressions has been calculated on the basis of one viewing only; however, many of the videos had been watched multiple times, so this number is likely to be much bigger," they added.
Since 2002, the UK government prohibited paid-for exposure of branded tobacco products in musical videos while the Advertising Standards Authority regulates alcohol promotion in videos. The British Board of Film Classification also rates music videos of for audience age groups and also monitors TV content for alcohol and tobacco when children might be watching the tube, but there is no such controls for alcohol and tobacco for digital services.
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"Owing to the obvious health implications for adolescents, we suggest that overly positive portrayals of both alcohol and tobacco in music videos should be included in both the drug misuse and dangerous behaviour presented as safe rating categories," the researchers cried.