CINCINNATI - Positive thoughts resonate in the Internet age. Today, reminders like “Be yourself, an original is worth more than a copy” and “You can always change what you already started” spread with the tap of a smartphone.
If there’s one message that the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati (CDFGC) wants to send to teens it’s that they can choose to be substance-free.
For the next two weeks CDFGC is asking high schoolers to express that decision by participating in a social media campaign using the hashtag #YourLifeYourChoice. The initiative asks teens to retweet and repost inspirational messages to encourage peers to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
“Well, from what we know, kids tell us themselves this is how they communicate these days,” said Mary Haag, CEO and director of CDFGC. “When my kids were growing up that didn’t exist. So, we wanted to be able to create messages and deliver them through a way that they’ll see it.”
Ten schools were given the chance to spread the messages to their students through morning announcements and eight chose to participate.
The schools are:
- New Miami
- Bethel Tate
- Newport Catholic
- Scarlet Oaks
- Villa Madonna Academy
“We originally thought we would do this through texting,” Haag explained, adding that after surveying students it seemed like social media was a better route. “What we find is students who report seeing anti-drug messages are less likely to use.”
After they post the messages on social networks, CDFGC chooses a winner and provides that student with a gift card and a #YourLifeYourChoice T-shirt.
So far 105 students have posted these messages for all of their Twitter followers to see. Two winners, Olivia Pietrosky and Noah Shea, have been chosen so far for the initiative that runs until Oct. 25.
Although parents are still the CDFGC’s primary targets, the organization also aims to educate students and teenagers about prevention.
A 2012 study that focused on alcohol and drug consumption by youth in Greater Cincinnati showed that teens say they start experimenting with substances between the ages of 12 and 14. It also found that more than half of teens have friends who disapprove marijuana, tobacco and alcohol use.
Social networking allows students to announce their stance on a substance-free life directly to their friends.
“We know peers have an influence on use behavior and adolescent behavior and if we can increase positive impact peers are having then we have a greater reach,” Haag said. "#YourLifeYourChoice is a very positive asset because building the message recognizes that that most students don't use and are on a healthy path."