NIDA Going Social to Reach Teens
To my great shock, last month my seventeen-year-old daughter logged over 3,500 minutes of texting time, which breaks down to over 58 hours or 2.4 days of thumb-numbing achievement. I am convinced the folks at Verizon have erected a tower for her sole use. With more teens using text and all things cloud based and social, it comes as no surprise the scientific and educational communities are keenly using more of these tools to target drug and alcohol abuse messages to teens.
To counteract the drug and alcohol myths teens get from the internet, TV, movies, music or peers, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2010 launched National Drug Facts Week. National Drug Facts Week runs this week, January 26 – 30, and includes a wide variety of local and nationally organized events aimed at giving high school students science-based information on drug abuse and addiction.
A large component to the week’s events is National Chat Day scheduled for Friday January 30. National Chat Day connects students and NIDA scientist via live chat for the purpose of real-time conversations about drug and alcohol usage. NIDA reports that teens are more inclined to share concerns and questions with an adult using the medium of chat because it offers a cloak of privacy and anonymity. Internet chat is also a medium that falls into the social media category, so teens are more likely to favor and be more responsive to that mode of communication.
Fifty scientists working for NIDA and other federal agencies team up to answer the questions submitted during Chat Day. The questions posed by teens around the country runs a wide spectrum of topics from behavioral to physical effects. NIDA reports positive responses from teens, who seem more inclined to accept and be influenced by the information coming from someone with a medical background.
National Chat Day organizers with NIDA look at the event as an opportunity to hear directly from students in order to find out what they’re hearing from their friends, the internet and other sources. That information better advises NIDA scientists so they can effect enhanced science, research and materials designed to help teens make better life choices. NIDA makes available chat forum transcripts from previous years. Reviewing chat transcripts gives parents, teachers and students an opportunity to gain greater understanding of the types of questions and concerns being raised.
According to NIDA, a third of high school seniors report using an illicit drug sometime in the past year; more than ten percent report nonmedical use of a prescription drug; and more than 20 percent report smoking marijuana in the past month. Many of these teens are unaware of the risks these drugs pose to their health, success and the dangers of driving while under the influence. Planned school and community events, materials, and interactions are viewed as opportunities to shatter commonly held myths and facilitate robust conversations about how drugs and alcohol affect the brain, body and behavior. NIDA offers an online toolkit with event planning suggestions, how to find experts to participate and free materials for teens. Learn more about National Drug Facts Week and National Chat Day events.