Teaching teens the truth about alcohol

Friday, 29 July 2016


The Centre for Health and Social Research has developed a media literacy program for high school students that is a game changer.

High school students are being challenged to think critically about alcohol advertising, as they take part in an innovative new program designed to counter alcohol industry messages.

The media literacy program, known as Game Changer+, will be introduced in selected local schools in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) from Term 3, following a successful pilot in New South Wales.

Game Changer+ is an initiative of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and was developed by a team of researchers from Australian Catholic University’s Centre for Health and Social Research (CHaSR) in Melbourne.

Game Changer+ is supported by the ACT Government under the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program, and will be officially launched in Canberra by ACT Assistant Minister for Health Meegan Fitzharris MLA today.

The eight-lesson program, which complements schools’ existing health education curriculum, takes a proactive and preventive approach to improving public health and minimising risky drinking behaviour.

The course has been designed for Year 9 and 10 or Stage 5 students, equipping them with key media literacy skills so they can interpret and challenge unhealthy advertising.

Lead researcher Professor Sandra Jones, Director of CHaSR, says that media literacy is an effective ‘counter marketing’ intervention in response to the barrage of sophisticated and powerful alcohol industry messages targeted at young people.

“Research shows that children are exposed to a constant stream of alcohol advertising, and that their drinking attitudes and behaviours are strongly influenced by exposure to these messages. Unfortunately, students, teachers and their parents are often unaware of the tactics the alcohol industry uses to make alcohol advertising appealing and to mislead young people about the effects of alcohol consumption,” said Professor Jones.

The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 34 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds have tried alcohol, with a third of them drinking it every week.

One in four Australians (25 per cent) aged between 14 and 17 had consumed alcohol at a risky level in the last year, drinking more than five standard drinks on a single occasion.

Research has found that about half of all alcohol advertisements on free-to-air television appear during children’s popular viewing times.

FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn says that now, more than ever it is important to have programs such as Game Changer+ that provide a positive influence, and challenge and counter the social norms around alcohol and young people.

“Game Changer+ increases young people’s awareness of the nature of the advertising and alcohol industries, encourages them to think critically about what they’re seeing, and empowers young Australians to make informed choices regarding the consumption of alcohol,” Mr Thorn said.

Read the report