Instagram could offer a novel way of monitoring the drinking habits of teenagers as photos and text from the site not only reveal patterns of drinking, but also the brands favoured by the youth, a new study says.
A team of researchers from the University of Rochester has shown that Instagram data can not only expose patterns of underage drinking more cheaply and faster than conventional surveys, but also find new patterns, such as what alcohol brands or types are favoured by different demographic groups.
The researchers said they hoped exposing these patterns could help develop effective intervention. Instagram is very popular among teenagers and it offers large amounts of information about this target population in the form of photos and text.
"Underage drinkers are willing to share their alcohol consumption experience on social media. Studying the social media behaviour of this group allows the researchers to observe it passively in an undisturbed state," said lead researcher professor Jiebo Luo.
Having selected a group of underage users to study, the researchers monitored drinking related activities via their Instagram photos by analysing the social media tags associated with these photos using a constructed internet slang dictionary and also any alcohol brands the users follow.
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The researchers found that underage alcohol consumption, like with adults, happens more on weekends and holidays and at the end of the day. The researchers found that different alcohol brands are followed in varying degrees by teenagers, and that different genders follow different brands.
The researchers highlighted that this could point out brands that are attracting younger audiences in social media, information that could be useful to people working with underage drinkers. The study is scheduled to be presented at the ongoing 2015 IEEE International Conference on Big Data in Santa Clara, California.