How kids process substance-abuse communications has now garnered concern among adults who are tracking the potential fallout of that influence.
For years, parents, educators and government have focused on the influence of violence in entertainment messaging, but have failed to weigh what is said about substance abuse.
To that end, two sources have new details with interesting conclusions.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health discovered that between the early 2000s and 2011, there was a decline in prevention messages from media, parents and schools to deter drug and alcohol use.
The overall conclusion is that adolescents are being subjected to influences that may increase their risk for substance use — or could protect them from it. Prevention programs are effective in reducing the influence of risks and increasing protection aspects.
The role of parental guidance can’t be underestimated, either.
Making even bigger news is the revelation that video games have ignored key aspects of influences in substance-abuse prevention.
Although they have been pointed to for years as harbingers of violence for youth, there has been little or no criticism on the messages video games provide on substance abuse.
The games listed, with associated blatant substance influences, are as follows:
- · Bioschock and its “concoction”
- · Far Cry 3’s “druggy hazes”
- · Haze and the lure of “nectar”
- · Max Payne 3’s reliance on “booze and painkillers”
- · Narc and its “barefoot junkies”
- · Fallout: New Vegas and a reliance on “cigarettes, booze and drugs”
- · Papo y Yo featuring an “alcoholic father”
- · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with its “narcotic ‘skooma’”
- · Leisure-Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards’ “liquor stores/seedy spots”
- · Grand Theft Auto IV with “boozy adventures and associated blurry camera angles”
In 2011, 40 percent of adolescents did not discuss the dangers of substance abuse with their parents, with one-quarter also not receiving prevention messages via media or school sources. Youth from 12 to 14 years were also less likely than those from 15 to 17 to have access to media warnings or having spoken with parents about the use/abuse.
But, they were more likely to have school-source intervention, including participation in a substance-use prevention program outside of school.
Messages encompassing media sources include those gleaned through seeing or hearing prevention information in posters/pamphlets/radio/television. Parental influence is defined as speaking with at least one guardian about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
Preventive media offerings dropped from 83.2 percent in 2002, to 75.1 percent in 2011.
School intervention spanned from special classes or presentations, films, lectures, discussions to printed materials on drugs or alcohol in regular classes or as special programs within or in addition to school days.
School-based prevention efforts have dropped from reaching 78.8 percent of teens in 2002 to 74.5 percent in 2011.
Teen attitudes reportedly also changed in recent years. Their perceived risk from substances like alcohol and marijuana rose from 38.2 percent to 40.7 between 2002 and 2011 — at a time when binge drinking also dropped from 10.7 percent to 7.4 percent.
And, although teens who perceived great risk from marijuana use once or twice a week dropped, from 54.6 percent in 2007 to 44.8 percent in 2011, the use of the drug also increased. Admitted “in-the-past-month” marijuana use increased during that time, from 6.7 percent to 7.9 percent.
Substance and Mental Health Services Administrator Pamela S, Hyde offers this input: “To prevent substance abuse among our adolescents, our young people have to know the facts about the real risks of substance abuse, and we’re not doing a very good job of that right now.”
“It’s time for all of us – the public health community, parents, teachers, caregivers, and peers – to double our efforts in educating our youth about substance use and engaging them in meaningful conversations about these issues, so that they can make safe and healthy decisions when offered alcohol or drugs.”
And, at a time when video games are accused of being addicting as well as influential, communities — and especially parents — need to make it a priority to be on guard.
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