| NIAAA Releases New Alcohol Prevention Website
for Middle Schoolers
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),
part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has released a
new version of The Cool Spot, the institute's website for
middle school (11- to 13-year-old) children. The website can be
accessed at: http://www.thecoolspot.gov.
"The Cool Spot uses engaging games and graphics to deliver
important messages about the risks of underage drinking and ways
to resist peer pressure," says NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li,
M.D. "It's vital to reach this age group, because the younger
people are when they start to drink, the higher their chances of
developing an alcohol problem at some point in their lives."
Research shows that more than 4 in 10 people who start drinking
before age 15 eventually become alcohol dependent.
The Cool Spot's new content is largely based on curriculum for
grades 6-8 developed by NIAAA-supported researchers at the University
of Michigan. The curriculum was used in a large-scale, multi-year
project called the Alcohol Misuse Prevention Study (AMPS).
One goal of AMPS was to give young teens a clearer picture about
alcohol use among their peers. Teens tend to overestimate how much
other teens drink. But when they are provided with accurate information
about peer-group drinking habits, teens may feel less pressure to
drink. Other goals of AMPS were to help kids learn skills to resist
pressure to drink and to give them reasons not to drink. The Cool
Spot incorporates AMPS goals in these and other features:
- Reality Check quizzes kids about how much drinking is really
going on in the U.S. The answers, which often surprise kids and
adults alike, are based on results of the 2002 National Survey
on Drug Use and Health.
- Deep Digging depicts why using alcohol as a solution to problems,
or a way of trying to cope, is trouble.
- Peer Pressure Bag of Tricks presents animated scenes that invite
kids to identify some common peer pressure "tricks."
It also lets kids know that spotting these tricks is the first
step to resisting them.
- Know your No's, an activity that introduces kids to a variety
of ways to say no, helps them learn which one is the most effective.
The site has a 10-question interactive quiz that encourages
visitors to glean some of the chief learning objectives. Middle
school teachers, counselors, and after-school providers can
have students complete and print the quiz to show they have
grasped some basic prevention messages.
To appeal to the target audience, the website's new graphic design
incorporates animated characters based on a popular Japanese comic
book style called "anime." In pre-tests of the new site
conducted among nearly 300 adolescents:
- 93 percent found it easy to use,
- 96 percent liked its appearance, and
- 89 percent said they wanted to visit the site again to learn
NIAAA conducted additional focus testing on the site's content
and usability with small groups and one-on-one interviews of 11-
to 13-year olds. The site's peer pressure sections were stand-outs,
according to participants. The middle schoolers reported that the
site helped them clarify types of pressure they had already felt
such as put-downs or rejection but had not recognized as forms
of peer pressure.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a component
of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, conducts and supports approximately 90 percent
of the U.S. research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and
treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems and
disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic
audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications
are available at www.niaaa.nih.gov.