How much alcohol does 13-year-old Noah see on TikTok in one hour?

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Netherlands

Publishing organisation: Pointer, the investigative journalism platform of Dutch Public Broadcasting station KRO-NCRV

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-09-11

Language: Dutch, English

Authors: Charlotte Claessen, Els Engel, Karen Geurtsen, Odette Joosten, Thomas Mulder, Rene Sommer


We work in project teams on large publications like this one.
This team was composed of:

Developer Els Engel
Designer Charlotte Claessen
Data journalist Thomas Mulder
Investigative journalist Karen Geurtsen
Investigative journalist Odette Joosten
Editor-in-chief Rene Sommer

Project description:

For a research project on kids and alcohol, we created a TikTok account for a 13-year-old and scrolled for an hour. We collected the viewing data to be able to analyze how much alcohol videos young kids can come across on TikTok. We used fictional Noah (13) to tell the story in a timeline, and enriched the timeline with video and audio material of kids, influencers and experts.

Impact reached:

As a result of our project the Dutch alcohol industry forced influencers to delete videos containing alcohol brands from their social media. They also started a conversation with TikTok and influencer manager organisations on a ‘notice and take down’-procedure. https://pointer.kro-ncrv.nl/alcoholsector-gaat-zuipvideos-aanpakken-influencers-moeten-filmpjes-van-tiktok-verwijderen-0

The Dutch State Secretary for Health also announced working on ways to get the videos out of kids’ timelines.

Techniques/technologies used:

To make this story, we created an account on TikTok for fake 13-year-old Noah van de Bosch. We created his picture with a Random face Generator, which generates photos of non-existing people from numerous pictures. After that, we started scrolling on TikTok.

The first ten minutes on TikTok we were passive. We didn’t do searches and didn’t give “likes.” After ten minutes we did entered relevant search words like “drank challenge,” “drankjes mixen” (mixing drinks) and “drankspel” (drinking game). We also started following content creators and giving “likes” to videos. In total, we gave 68 “likes” (62 unique videos, 6 doubled).

After feeding the algorithm for half an hour by explicitly searching for drinking videos, we went back to the “For You” page which filled with alcohol-related content.

After the experiment, we retrieved the data from TikTok and then analyzed the data using Excel.

In total, we saw 1,228 videos. We saw some videos twice. We removed those from our list, so that we were left with 1,179 unique videos. Of those videos, 63 contained an alcohol brand. That’s 5.3 percent of all unique videos. Meanwhile, 18.9 percent of all unique videos contained alcohol in general, like people proposing a toast or just having a drink (brand or no brand visible).

The TikTok account (user6617701857793) was created on April 12th, 2022. We retrieved the data on April 19th, 2022. For this analysis, we watched the 1,228 videos that were shown on Noah’s account between 11:43:55 a.m. and 12:48:20 p.m. In total, we gave 68 “likes” (62 unique videos, 6 double).

We chose for a scrolly to tell the story. It enables the reader to engage and we could add strong visual and interactive elements.

Context about the project:

Pointer is doing a long-term [research project](https://pointer.kro-ncrv.nl/onderzoeken/vet) on how hard it is for kids to grow up healthy. We made several broadcasts on the junkfood advertising that kids see on social media. We crowdsource among kids to hear what’s going on. During that research kids showed us how much alcohol they saw on their social accounts. This was shocking to us, since on tv advertising alcohol is prohibited by law before 9 pm to protect minors. We created the scrolly to let adults experience what their kids can see and start a conversation.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Kids see all sorts of stuff on social media and parents often don’t know about it. This an international issue and hard to regulate. That’s why we also published in English and want to cooperate worldwide on this issue. Crowdsourcing among kids and analyzing (fictional) kids’ social media streams is a fairly easy technique for journalists to make people aware, and it can have a lot of impact.

Project links: