Conversations on teen alcohol abuse

26 Aug 14

Underage drinking is a very real problem in South Africa. While statistics show that one out of every two teenagers in the average South African home uses alcohol, it is especially concerning given the potential harm of alcohol to developing young bodies and minds.

SAB, through various initiatives, has taken a proactive approach to curbing underage drinking in South Africa and encouraging the youth to take charge of their own futures with their You Decide programme. One aspect of the programme has been an emphasis on conversations with South Africa’s youth. Through real life school visits as well as online presence on Mxit, Facebook and Twitter, the You Decide initiative has begun an ongoing conversation with South Africa’s teenagers.

The programme’s most prominent platforms showed a great interest from the youth in their follower numbers, as campaigns such as the #DoStuffZA competition encouraged online conversation:

Raising the profile of the conversation

With regular postings these online platforms, as well as an actively-touring roadshow, You Decide aims to bring issues and facts around underage drinking to light. Issues such as peer pressure, coping with stress in one’s life, making friends and setting good habits for the future feature prominently.

Also discussed are the actual effects of alcohol on young bodies and the physical, emotional and possibly life-changing outcomes that teens expose themselves to when drinking underage.


Listening also is an important aspect of the You Decide campaign, and has been a great tool to get to know SA’s teens better and in doing so, better communicate with them. Through the Mxit app and Facebook page especially, many interesting insights have been uncovered and recorded. A series of #DoStuffZA photo competitions  also proved a valuable visual insight, while encouraging teens to make healthy choices.

Regular polls on the Facebook page showed that indeed the majority of the youth were regular drinkers or had tried alcohol while a third had never touched a drop. Polls also showed healthy habits and big dreams, with many teens sharing their passions of sports, music and hanging out with friends as their ways of coping with stress.

Q & A with a teen role model

A popular initiative on the campaign was a series of Chats with Hulisani, in which the #DoStuffZA campaign ambassador took part in several live Mxit Chat events. Response from teens around the country was overwhelming and each session of two hours was jam packed their questions on everything from addiction to peer pressure to career advice, which she duly answered. These were recorded and shared as a further reference for teens to use to inspire and guide them.

Involving adults too

We’re also challenging adults to consider their role in allowing teenage drinking and have encouraged conversation around the subject on our adult social media platforms as well. Difficult questions such as “Do you think it’s OK for teens under the age of 18 to drink?” have spurred hundreds of comments. The overwhelming response in this particular poll showed that the majority of the adults did not agree with teenage drinking, while they did believe it was happening.

It is hoped that by creating awareness around underage drinking we can encourage awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse and the role we each play as adults in our communities

You Decide: reaching out for youth empowerment

SAB’s You Decide campaign has made notable strides in reaching out to youth across the country since it as launched three years ago. The You Decide Roadshow has visited over 870 schools and touched the lives of 489 000 learners since its launch. A more recent headline act was the Future Leaders TV show, a 13-part reality TV show in which potential youth leaders are challenged with the opportunity to effect change within their communities and gain leadership experience.  The second season will air on SABC 1 later this year.