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Friday, October 31, 2008

'Social norming' for risk prevention

This story at NPR.org is not about technology (though very few risk-prevention and online-safety stories really are). It's about a successful program in changing social norms to lower student risk, and it might be a model for 1) lowering risk in young people's online experiences - including the reinforcement of self-destructive behavior such as cutting, eating disorders, and substance abuse - and 2) educating youth about digital citizenship and positive peer support. The program, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, "relies on peer counseling, social events and solid information to challenge misperceptions students have about drinking" instead of the rules-and-enforcement programs at most colleges and universities. Proof of effectiveness: unlike at colleges across the US, where the number of alcohol-related deaths is on the rise, at UV Charlottesville, "no student has died from intoxication or an accident linked to drinking since 1998" and "the number of students who say they have driven while intoxicated has dropped by more than half since the prevention and education program started."

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