The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently
released a new version of The Cool Spot, a web site for middle
school (11- to 13-year-old) children. The site can be accessed
"The Cool Spot uses engaging games and graphics to deliver important
messages about the risks of underage drinking and ways to resist
peer pressure," says NIAAA director Dr. Ting-Kai Li. "It's vital
to reach this age group, because the younger people are when they
start to drink, the higher their chances of developing an alcohol
problem at some point in their lives." Research shows that more
than 4 in 10 people who start drinking before age 15 eventually
The Cool Spot's new content is largely based on curriculum for
grades 6-8 developed by NIAAA-supported researchers at the University
of Michigan. Designers used a popular Japanese comic book style
called "anime" that appeals to middle school students.
The original curriculum was the basis for a large scale, multi-year
project called the Alcohol Misuse Prevention Study (AMPS). One
goal of AMPS was to give young teens a clearer picture about alcohol
use among their peers. Teens tend to overestimate how much other
teens drink. But when they are provided with accurate information
about peer-group drinking habits, teens may feel less pressure
to drink. Other goals of AMPS were to help kids learn skills to
resist pressure to drink and to give them reasons not to drink.
The Cool Spot incorporates these goals and other features:
Reality Check quizzes kids about how much drinking
is really going on in the U.S. The answers, which often surprise
kids and adults alike, are based on results of the 2002 National
Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Deep Digging depicts why using alcohol as a solution
to problems, or a way of trying to cope, is trouble.
Peer Pressure Bag of Tricks presents animated
scenes that invite kids to identify some common peer pressure "tricks." It
also lets kids know that spotting these tricks is the first step
to resisting them.
Know Your No's, an activity that introduces kids
to a variety of ways to say no, helps them learn which one is the
A 10-question quiz encourages visitors to glean some of the chief
learning objectives. Middle school teachers, counselors and after-school
providers can have students complete and print the quiz to show
they have grasped some basic prevention messages.
The site's interactive peer pressure sections were a standout,
according to middle school boys and girls who participated in focus
testing. "I didn't know there were different types of peer pressure.
I just thought it was one big thing," said one youth. Others said
that "it taught you a lot" and it was "important because peer pressure
is the main thing in drinking." Parents who visit the site may
learn some new things, too, and later will be able to reinforce
with their child the lessons in spotting peer pressure and choosing
effective ways to say "no."
For details about the site, contact Maureen Gardner at (301) 443-4734