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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Scaring Teens and Others Into Changing Their Behavior

Recently, an attorney friend asked me what I thought about programs like "Every 15 Seconds" and others that are designed to scare teens into "behaving", especially with alcohol and texting. Every single authoritative study or report I have seen results in a definite no. Why? Why don't they work?

 First off, let me tell you that for the first few years, when I began teaching, I showed these films with utter confidence that they would "teach" my students about the dangers of drinking and driving. But then, I noticed a funny thing happening; new students came to class, and their FIRST question was, "Are we gonna see that bloody, gory crashes video?". When I told them no, they were terribly disappointed and whined that they wanted to see the brains, blood, and disfigured victims. WAIT!!! They WANTED to see it...not the alcohol part, but the blood and guts part? It was then that I realized that, fear and scare wasn't working, but the prurient interest in the CONTENTS of the film was. In other words, THE SCARE VALUE OBLITERATED THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE.

Some of you may remember the film, "Reefer Madness" from the early 1930's and re-released in the 1970's, about the evils and dangers of Marijuana.......I wonder how that worked out?

Many law enforcement groups, school PTA's and organizations like MADD, SADD and others, like to point out the decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths and injuries, and claiming victory for their scare tactics, but they neglect to inform people what "alcohol-related" means, and they NEVER show videos of kids laughing AFTERWARDS about the film(s). They have adopted a fully POLITICAL style of messaging to their recipients, mainly spinning the best stats, ignoring or denigrating the ones which don't agree with their agenda.

Make no mistake about this blog post; I am FULLY against drinking/texting/cellphone use while driving. But history shows that fear doesn't last long, and without a strong education or empirical knowledge to MAINTAIN a "fear" or respect for an entity, skill, or behavior......it won't last.

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