Message to Idaho Students: Underage Drinking Starts With an Excuse From Adults

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Not much can get a large group of teenagers fired up before 8 a.m., and when approximately 300 seventh-grade students at Boise's North Junior High were asked on Thursday morning to repeat, on the count of three, “Say no to underage drinking,” the response was less than enthusiastic. But Dana Fudurich had other plans. Fudurich is the field director for The Century Council, an alcohol industry-funded nonprofit that targets underage drinking.

“I could lecture them and do a whole hourlong series on alcohol and statistics, and that’s not what they want to hear,” said Fudurich. “That’s not how kids learn today in this environment. Research shows that when kids are interactive as they’re learning, they’re more able to absorb information.”

Fudurich is part of a team of educators and psychologists who have developed a video game that teaches kids about the dangers of underage consumption of alcohol. Several North Junior students had an opportunity to play the Wii-style video game, in which participants move around on a floor mat while their avatars race on-screen. Contestants must avoid obstacles and stop to answer trivia questions about alcohol’s effects on the human body.

“It’s actually a pretty fun game, once you get going,” said 14-year-old Greyson Midnight. “It asks questions about alcohol, so I guess that it could give you a little better perspective on why alcohol’s bad for you.”

Fudurich said as many as 36 percent of adolescents try alcohol before reaching high school, and Midnight agreed.

“Alcohol-use for kids our age is starting earlier in junior high instead of high school,” he said. “It’s probably good to target us now so we’re more aware when we get older.”

Also at this morning's assembly were Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho Liquor Division.

“Underage drinking doesn’t start with a drink,” said Anderson. “It starts with an excuse. The excuse is from the adults: 'It’s OK; I did it when I was younger.' That’s not true.”