Media Skepticism

Grim Reapers and Better Alternatives to Fear-Based Behavior Change Campaigns

The season of prom is upon us, and school administrators are turning to fear-based and oddly macabre methods to prevent alcohol-related fatalities. For instance, having a grim reaper wander the halls of school and pick students at random to be made up as dead people in order to provide gruesome warnings.

I happen to think this is weird and creepy, but more to the point, ineffective.  Fear-based instruction, while popular (Buffy the Vampire Slayer explains that she is ready to drive once she’s seen the video with the blood and the guts) is not known to be particularly good at  dissuading people from doing dangerous things.  Of course, the problem with telling people younger than 21 (in the US) about how to avoid consequences of drinking without telling them not to drink runs into (I think? I am not a lawyer) legal problems and also people who think that any lesson other than abstinence is encouragement.  But since I don’t believe people should die from making unsafe decisions, and let’s face it, everyone is going to make unsafe decisions at least once, I have some proposals I think are better for ensuring alcohol related safety than theatrical grim reapers wandering the halls.
  1.  safe and affordable transportation options to and from the prom site.  For adults, various companies will provide cheap or even free transportation on holidays associated with much drinking, why not proms?
  2. Medical amnesty.  Anyone calling for medical help for anything alcohol related around prom will be assured that no questions are asked and no police or school reports made.  Some colleges that allow alcohol on campus have these amnesty programs for undergrads who are underage, and I think it really helps with cutting down on alcohol related deaths, because people aren’t as worried about asking for help.
  3.  Education on safe alcohol consumption. How to drink at a safe rate and how long to wait after drinking before it’s safe to drive.  Couple this with some education on what alcohol poisoning looks like, so people actually know when they should avail themselves of no questions asked medical services.
  4. Education on consent with regard to alcohol consumption.   Actually education about consent at all in high schools would be awesome.
Just saying no campaigns have never been shown to be successful.  We can do better.
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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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