Campaign targets underage drinking with positive message

11/16/2015

By Sue Cody

 

Shelly Alford Oregon mOReMost parents do not approve of their teens drinking alcohol. This fact and others, such as teen brain development, perceptions about underage drinking and parents’ influence over teens are brought to light in a campaign kicked off Nov. 1 in Clatsop County.

 

North Coast Prevention Works coalition is using statewide Oregon mORe campaign materials to encourage adults and teens to find the facts, discuss attitudes and reduce underage drinking.

 

Health Promotion Coordinator Shelly Alford was hired to spearhead the campaign. Her position is funded by a Community Wellness Investment Fund grant.

 

In an interview, she said the media campaign is evidence-based to foster meaningful change by supplying data and useful tips.

 

“Behavior is based on beliefs,” Alford said.

 

What came to light in a 2014 student survey is a discrepancy between how many students are drinking and how much they believe their peers are drinking. Clatsop County statistics show 97% of sixth graders said they did not drink in the last 30 days, but 36% believed most students in their school had used alcohol in the past 30 days. Statistics for parents and high school students were similar. Their beliefs were that more students were drinking than the survey showed.

 

Students who believe most students drink monthly, or more often, are 6.9 times more likely to drink monthly themselves, the Oregon mORe materials state.

 

“We want to transform beliefs,” Alford said. When people see the statistics, they can change their beliefs about underage drinking. “We can dispel the myths,” she said.

 

parent_poster111Materials offer help

 

Oregon mORe offers tool kits, resource books, posters and guides for parents on how to talk to their kids about underage drinking. Posters show a positive outlook, reflecting actual numbers from the survey in Clatsop County. For example, most parents do not approve of underage drinking. Most high school students say they will not ride in a car driven by someone who has been drinking.

 

The focus group is middle school and high school students and their parents, Alford said. A parent survey was sent home with students and is available on Survey Monkey. NC Prevention Works is still waiting to receive some of those surveys.

 

Radio ads read by middle-school and high-school students began Nov. 1 on The Bridge, 94.9 and KRKZ, 94.3.

 

The next step is to hang posters in all the middle and high schools in Clatsop County, which includes Jewell, Astoria, Knappa, Seaside and Warrenton. Banners and business reader boards will also display the positive messages.

 

Student_Poster_v9Brain development

 

“Your teen’s brain is rapidly changing and is not completely developed until the mid-twenties,” Jay Giedd and others report in “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.”

 

“Teen brains are not entirely capable of applying knowledge and evaluating possible outcomes. In other words, their brains alone may not be ready to keep them from doing things they know they shouldn’t do,” states Barbara Strauch in “The Primal Teen: What New Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us about Our Kids.” This is because the frontal lobe of the brain is the last part to develop. It allows people to inhibit actions and predict consequences of decisions.

 

“Drinking impairs learning and memory in youth and can result in permanent learning disabilities,” the American Medical Association reports.

 

Suggestions for parents:

 

Approach communication with an open attitude.

 

Wait until you are both calm.

 

Engage your teen in a dialogue to understand his perspective. Inquire about what he or she thinks and perceives. Do not insist on being right.

 

Listen more, talk less.

 

Ask open-ended questions, such as: What do you think about drinking? Can you tell me more about that? How do you think I feel about drinking?

 

Create a collaborative environment by avoiding the attitude that “I’m the adult and I know everything.” Do not insist that you have all the answers.

 

Be interested in your teen’s viewpoint. Be curious about what he or she thinks or feels.

 

Let teens know you respect their views.

 

Try not to respond with anger.

 

Set rules that are clear, justifiable and consistently reinforced. “Rules give structure to kids’ lives and help them feel loved,” the Oregon moRe material states.

 

“It is really important to share this information,” Alford said.

 

The program’s success will be assessed after the 2016 student survey.

 

For more information, visit www.oregonmore.org.