It is very tricky to monitor the drinking behaviors of teens. This is more so the fact that teenagers and kids tend not to be honest in totality when being surveyed about their drinking habits and alcohol use. This is also goes to those who aren’t normally a sample representative.
This has lead the researcher from the University of Rochester (in the United States) to turn to the use of Instagram when carrying out their survey. According to them, Instagram can expose data faster and more cheaply than all the other conventional surveys. They further added that it will be easy to discover the alcohol types and brands that are highly favored by the teens’ demographics.
As per Jiebo Luo, together with his team (in a paper that they released), underage drinkers, and teens are very willing to share their alcohol drinking experiences on the social media. Therefore, monitoring Instagram can easily allow these researchers to observe it in an “unobstructed way.”
Despite the fact that Instagram doesn’t allow for the selection of users according to their ages, Jiebo Luo and his team were able to employ the use of computer vision technology so as to obtain sufficient accurate guesses for race, gender, and age. With another constructed slang dictionary and the names of brands of alcohol used, they were able to make a collection of the necessary data.
According to the findings of their research, underage and teenage drinking tends to happen more often on holidays and weekends, as well as during the end of the day. Also, the research revealed that there was no longer a gender bias on the consumption of alcohol- as it had matched the Instagram users’ ratio. Moreover, the researcher were able to find the types and brands of alcohol that are favored by these younger audiences. This was more so useful to the relevant people that work with teenage drinkers. As per Luo, the social media platforms such as Instagram can be effectively used by government agencies to incorporate targeted interventions and as well, try to measure the effects of such kinds of interventions.
"The new method of finding information about a given demographic (social media) could be useful in complementing the more traditional methods of measuring youth drinking. She also added that this kind of research could still provide other vital insights into the contexts of youth drinking".