Changing misperceptions …

Letters to the Editor from the Tomahawk Leader.
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Changing misperceptions …

Postby Tomahawk Leader » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:18 pm

A letter in the Jan. 11, 2011, Tomahawk Leader:

To The Leader:

The Lincoln County Drug Free Coalition, along with the Tomahawk School District, will officially be kicking off a Social Norms marketing campaign in the Tomahawk community during the month of February, 2011. The campaign, along with the coalition, is being funded through a Drug-Free Communities grant.

Social norms theory is based on the premise that individual behaviors are influenced by misperceptions of how peers think and act. For youth in particular, peer influences and perceptions have been found to be more influential in shaping individual choices for behavior than other factors. Therefore, over-estimating problem behaviors actually discourages youth from choosing healthy behaviors. On the other hand, clearing up misperceptions by promoting actual norms increases the likeliness of youth choosing safe and healthy behaviors.

Recently, we have been hearing a lot about our middle and high school students who are consuming alcohol, misusing prescription drugs and being expelled from our schools. Unfortunately, all too often, it is easy to focus attention on the few who are making poor decisions and engaging in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors. While it is important to identify these students and to provide them with the programs and support needed to make healthier decisions, it is also equally as important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of our youth are making healthy choices and choosing not to consume alcohol and misuse prescription drugs.

We need to change the perceptions of students, parents and the community to reflect more accurately the actual behaviors of young people and the fact that the majority of our youth are making healthy choices. In February 2011 the Lincoln County Drug Free Coalition, along with the Tomahawk School District, will begin a media campaign designed to accurately communicate information about the true norms of Tomahawk Middle and High School students. This media campaign is being modeled around other Social Norms campaigns that have been successful in reducing the number of students making unhealthy choices in other areas of the state and country.

For more information about the social norms approach and/or the project, you can contact

Sue Hawkins
Tomahawk Project Director
Lincoln County Drug Free Coalition
715- 453-7070

Debbie Moellendorf
4-H Youth Development Educator
Lincoln County UW-Extension

Mitch Hamm
Tomahawk School District Director of Pupil Services

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