Social Media and Alcohol Use in Early Adolescents: Navigating the Digital Age

alcohol use

The Digital Landscape

In the digital age, the landscape of adolescence has significantly changed. Today’s youth are growing up in a world where social media is a constant presence, and its impact on their lives is significant. 

A recent study found that 97% of teenagers in the U.S. use at least one social media platform. Many spend several hours a day online (source: Pew Research Center). 

While social media can offer many benefits, such as connecting with friends and accessing information, it can pose risks.

The Link Between Social Media and Alcohol Use

Recent research has begun to explore the relationship between social media use and alcohol expectancies in early adolescents. Alcohol use expectancies refer to the beliefs and expectations that individuals have about the effects of alcohol. 

These beliefs can influence an individual’s decision to start drinking and then alcohol use.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a study that found exposure to alcohol-related content on social media was associated with higher alcohol use expectancies among adolescents. 

This exposure can come in many forms, from posts by friends drinking to advertisements from alcohol companies.

A Deeper Dive into the Research

The research into the link between social media use and alcohol use expectancies is still in its early stages, but the findings so far are concerning. 

One study found that adolescents who frequently viewed pictures of their peers drinking on social media were likelier to believe that alcohol use is normal and acceptable behavior. 

These beliefs can lead to early initiation of alcohol use and potentially problematic drinking behaviors in the future.

Another study found that alcohol advertisements on social media were particularly influential. 

These advertisements often portray alcohol use as glamorous and fun, which can create positive expectations around drinking. Furthermore, these advertisements often target young people, increasing their exposure to these messages.

The Role of Parents and Caregivers

As parents and caregivers, it’s essential to understand the digital landscape that our children are navigating. Open communication about social media use and its potential impacts is crucial. 

Discussing the portrayal of alcohol use on social media and its potential consequences can help adolescents make informed decisions.

Parents can also help by setting boundaries around social media use. It could include limiting online time, ensuring that adolescents have a healthy balance of offline activities, and monitoring content exposure.

Detailed Advice for Parents

Active parental engagement is a critical strategy in assisting children to navigate the world of social media safely. It doesn’t mean spying on your child’s every online move. Instead, showing an interest in their online activities and having open discussions.

Setting clear boundaries and expectations around social media use is also essential. It could include rules about when and where teens can use social media and what types of content are appropriate.

Finally, parents can help children develop critical thinking skills to navigate the digital world. It includes teaching them to question what they see online. Not everything portrayed on social media is often a curated, unrealistic view of reality.


Cyberbullying has become a significant concern for many parents and caregivers. Educating children about the potential harm they can cause or experience is crucial. 

Encourage open communication about their online interactions. Always teach them to treat others with respect online and offline.

Online Privacy

Many teens are unaware of the potential privacy risks associated with social media. Parents can significantly contribute to their children’s understanding of online privacy. 

It includes explaining the importance of setting privacy settings on their social media accounts. Teach them to be cautious about the information they share online. Help them understand that removing it once something is posted can be challenging.

Screen Time and Mental Health

Excessive screen time has been linked to various adolescent mental health issues. These include depression and anxiety. 

Parents need to set boundaries around screen time and encourage a healthy balance of offline activities. Taking frequent breaks from screen time can also contribute positively to mental health.

Digital Footprint

Every action we take online contributes to our digital footprint. It can have long-term implications, affecting future employment or college admission. 

Parents can teach their children to be mindful of their online actions. We can help them understand that what they post online can have real-world consequences.

Healthy Social Media Habits

Finally, parents can encourage healthy social media habits in their children. It could include following positive role models. Teach them not to compare themselves to others and take regular breaks from social media.

It’s also important to remind children that what they see on social media is often a curated and unrealistic view of reality.

Personal Stories and Anecdotes

To illustrate the impact of social media on alcohol use expectancies, consider the story of Jake, a 14-year-old boy. Jake started using social media when he was 12. He noticed many of his older peers posted pictures of themselves drinking at parties.

These images, coupled with alcohol advertisements he saw on social media, led Jake to believe that drinking was part of his teenage life. By the time Jake was 14, he had started experimenting with alcohol.

Tom Holland was ‘obsessed’ with drinking before sobriety journey: It ‘really scared me’ – New York Post. 

  • “I was waking up thinking about it. I was checking the clock … And it just really scared me,” the “Spider-Man” star recalled on Jay Shetty’s podcast.

Teenager sent for drug addiction evaluation over attempt to open plane door mid-flight – The Korea Times.

  • A teenager accused of attempting to open a plane door during a flight last month has been sent to a psychiatric facility over suspicions of drug addiction, prosecutors said Tuesday.


Navigating the digital age as a parent or caregiver can be challenging. However, understanding the potential risks associated with social media use, such as increased alcohol expectancies, is crucial. 

Keep maintaining open communication, setting boundaries, and providing guidance. We can help our adolescents navigate this digital landscape safely and healthily.

A writer and mother working to provide the best advice and support for navigating the internet in a safe and secure manner.