Purpose: Exposure to alcohol use in media is associated with adolescent alcohol use. Adolescents frequently display alcohol references on Internet media, such as social networking web sites. The purpose of this study was to conduct a theoretically based content analysis of older adolescents' displayed alcohol references on a social networking web site.
Methods: We evaluated 400 randomly selected public MySpace profiles of self-reported 17- to 20-year-olds from zip codes, representing urban, suburban, and rural communities in one Washington county. Content was evaluated for alcohol references, suggesting: (1) explicit versus figurative alcohol use, (2) alcohol-related motivations, associations, and consequences, including references that met CRAFFT problem drinking criteria. We compared profiles from four target zip codes for prevalence and frequency of alcohol display.
Results: Of 400 profiles, 225 (56.3%) contained 341 references to alcohol. Profile owners who displayed alcohol references were mostly male (54.2%) and white (70.7%). The most frequent reference category was explicit use (49.3%); the most commonly displayed alcohol use motivation was peer pressure (4.7%). Few references met CRAFFT problem drinking criteria (3.2%). There were no differences in prevalence or frequency of alcohol display among the four sociodemographic communities.
Conclusions: Despite alcohol use being illegal and potentially stigmatizing in this population, explicit alcohol use is frequently referenced on adolescents' MySpace profiles across several sociodemographic communities. Motivations, associations, and consequences regarding alcohol use referenced on MySpace appear consistent with previous studies of adolescent alcohol use. These references may be a potent source of influence on adolescents, particularly given that they are created and displayed by peers.
(c) 2010 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.