5 May 2004
Do as we say, but not here
Minus the buzzwords, this seems reasonable enough:
Adolescents tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers are participating in risk behaviors. In almost any functioning social system, the majority of individuals are making healthy decisions and are avoiding risky behavior. However, many individuals in the majority typically believe that they are in the minority i.e., that "everyone else is doing it." Such misperceptions can be harmful because they can provide a sort of false peer pressure, encouraging young people to take risks that they would rather avoid. Programs employing a social-norms approach attempt to correct misperceptions by providing accurate information about true peer norms, either through instructional activities or through social marketing campaigns. Developed over the past decade or so, this approach has been quite successful in reducing risk-taking behavior in the area of drinking and drug abuse.
William F. Bacon, PhD, who came up with this, is associate vice president for research and evaluation at Planned Parenthood of New York City, and his statement appears on the Planned Parenthood Web site.
You might assume from this that the organization actually seeks to reduce "risk-taking behavior." A glance at their Web site for teenagers, Teenwire, suggests otherwise. Dawn Eden has done more than glance, and she's appalled:
The main story linked on Teenwire's front page is "Be Prepared for the Prom," which informs teens that prom night is a big night to lose your virginity. It seems that all that talk on Planned Parenthood's main Web site about changing teens' "social norms" and upending the "everybody's doing it" philosophy is sooooo last year.
At the very least, there's a serious disconnect between what Planned Parenthood is telling adults, who write the checks, and what they're telling teenagers.
As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.