Young Alaska magazine

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“Alcohol has always been a large part of my mom’s life. Her dad – my grandpa – was a high functioning alcoholic, there was always alcohol in her house growing up, and in mine as well.” - ELAINE


table of contents: Background & Methodology................................................... 04 SECTION 01:

Good Kids with Good Intentions........................... 06


Under Pressure......................................................16


A Night in the Life................................................. 26


Adding Alcohol to the Mix.................................... 32

Intro to Immersion................................................................. 42 Top Learnings Generated Room-to-Room.............................. 44 Team-Generated What Ifs....................................................... 46 TEEN PANEL: Behind the Curtain................................................ 52

Questions for Additional Consideration................................. 54 NEXT STEPS: Do’s & Don’ts..........................................................55








background & methodology In an effort to combat alcohol abuse, Recover Alaska (RA), in partnership with the Alaska Wellness Coalition (AWC), developed the Be [You]. Campaign – a statewide media campaign that incorporates a Positive Culture Framework to shift perceptions and behaviors among youth in Alaska – with a specific focus toward the prevention of underage drinking via communication that challenges the misconception that most teens drink alcohol. With the first round of Be [You]. live, RA and AWC seek follow up with a second round of messaging that engages teens and young adults (14-20) in both the discovery phase and campaign output. Partnering with Good Run Research & Recreation (GRRR), everyone joined hands to meet the following research objectives: Gain a comprehensive understanding of overarching values and protective / connectedness factors held by Alaskan youth; Deliver a detailed understanding of how values and protective / connectedness factors correspond between locations / regions and identity groups; Tap a diverse set of subgroups to understand how motivations, behaviors, values, beliefs and protective / connectedness factors play into risk-adverse decision making; Cultivate a basis for cultural transformation and outline strategic next steps to evolve the Be [You]. Campaign.

research participants We recruited a diverse sample of 28 Alaskan teens, aged 14-20, segmented according to risk, based on social and environmental protective factors, including, but not limited to, attitudes towards alcohol use.

Phase 1:

Phase 2:

28 youths completed a week-long engagement using mobile devices to capture individual responses to a series of assignments. Content submitted provided an unfiltered, unedited snapshot of Alaskan teen life, and how alcohol factors into the mix. Over the course of one week, we collected hundreds of unique pieces of content in the form of videos, pictures, text, and illustrative imagery, addressing the following topics:

Members from the RA and AWC teams as well as affiliates included by RA’s invitation gathered for an all-day immersion event, facilitated by Good Run Research & Recreation (GRRR). The purpose of the day was to immerse the entire team in Phase 1 learning, and to work together to generate a blueprint for successful next steps forward. The following pages outline key themes from the day, including opportunities and considerations as we work together to develop the next iteration of the campaign.

Online Mobile Ethnography (April 30-May 6, 2018)

1. What it means to be a “good kid” 2. Daily pressures and how they influence choices 3. Night life and social occasions 4. Alcohol: Perceptions, influence, role, and decisions


Immersion Day (June 6, 2018)

For the sake of participants’ anonymity and protection, all names have been changed in the following report.

Phase 1 Highlights: Immersion Day Fodder, Directly From Our Teens SECTION 01: Good Kids with Good Intentions SECTION 02: Under Pressure SECTION 03: A Night in the Life SECTION 04: Adding Alcohol to the Mix



h t i w s d i G ood K ions t n e t n I G ood


EVERYDAY KIDS DOING EVERYDAY THINGS A behind the scenes look at what makes these kids tick.


THE HIGHS AND LOWS Simple moments make them smile each day‌and cause bumps in the road.




Spending time with his girlfriend

Getting yelled at by his parents for not doing enough around the house


Having lunch with a friend at work

Having to spend money on a new car battery because the car wouldn’t start


Making my first website at work

Anxiety and stress over college finals


Going to get a burger after school

Getting out of bed


Hockey practice after school

Tricky Russian final


Getting Honor Roll Award at school

Being locked out of the house while on a lunch break


Getting home from school and playing Xbox

Doing homework after school

Going to Subway and Starbucks during lunch with friends

Finding parking in the crowded school parking lot

Helping my dad fix a door at the post office

Getting an email saying an ex-friend was moving back to town

Having lunch with my boyfriend and his family

Puppy ran away but thankfully came back!

michelle elaine alice


EVERYDAY KIDS DOING EVERYDAY THINGS A behind-the-scenes look at what makes these kids tick.


the lunch room connections Lunchtime is connection time. It’s not about the food, it’s about the fuel time to focus on friendships and the energy created.

It’s fun! “Every day I sit in the art complex at one of the benches, and I usually sit with my girlfriend and her best friend. They are all upbeat – it’s just a good time.” – Chris “That time of my day is very valuable to me since I’m so busy. I love to eat lunch with the people I love – it says a lot about me and my values.” – Alex

“We sit right outside the band room on the ramp to the theater room, just me and my friends having a good time.” - William

...BUT SOMETIMES IT CAN BE FAKE. “I sit with my closest friends every day, but I still feel like I have to be fake to some of them at the table when they talk about things that aren’t interesting to me.” – Melanie

COMMUNITY CAUSES Community involvement is a priority, and it provides a sense of meaning and belonging.


“I am a substitute teacher with PreK kids, and they call me auntie.” - Alice


“I volunteer coaching the Ice Puppies hockey team – the 4-7 year olds. And I spend some hours each week at the ER vet clinic.” - Simon


“I go to APU and I am a part of the Production Guild in the Theater Club.” - Theo

SOURCES OF PRIDE Well beyond school, teens take pride in stepping up for their communities.




“We built this 125CC Mini bike from just a frame and tires and chain.” – Theo

“I’m Cheer Captain at my school, and I worked hard for two years to get that title.” - Krista



“I’m in the Drama Debate Forensics Club, and it has helped me a lot in communications skills because I used to be so nervous to talk in front of people.” – Sarah

“We took second place in Vancouver, Canada in the International Youth Hockey Tournament.” - Simon

EVERYDAY KIDS DOING EVERYDAY THINGS A behind-the-scenes look at what makes these kids tick.


TAKING TIME FOR TV Though the definition of “TV” has broadened to include streaming and digital content, teens are still glued to it. Favorites include:

“I liked the book and I like looking at the political side and the possibility of religion taking over government and the way people decipher the Bible or what happens when you decipher it literally.” – Louise

“I have a favorite YouTube channel. It’s called “The Richest.” – Lynn “There are so many videos you can watch about playing video games. I can connect to that because I am a gamer.” – Dave

“I love old music and old shows because they never fail to help me when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. It takes me back to a simpler time and calms me down.” – Elaine

“It’s so suspenseful and it keeps you hooked.” - Tricia “I have binge watched seven seasons since March.” – Susan

“I love watching the drama the moms put on their girls just to dance.” - Leah

“I like the creativity of it.” - Luke 09

DEFINING GOOD Teens’ take on what it takes to be good.


WHAT’S A GOOD KID? At first pass, being a “good kid” comes with a clear set of do’s and don’ts.

BUT BEING GOOD DOESN’T MEAN BEING PERFECT Teens acknowledge even good kids make mistakes, and those mistakes make them real...and normal.

IT’S PART OF BEING A TEENAGER “None of us are perfect, everybody goes through teenage phases. I have done lots of things that aren’t the best or the brightest, but I still would consider myself a good kid.” - Chris




“It’s how you choose to do the things you do. If it’s something you choose to do, be honest with yourself and don’t lie about it. Then learn from it and move on.” - Alex

“A lot of people think being a good kid is not having sex, not drinking, not doing drugs. But you can still be a good kid when you’re doing those things.” - Elaine




“Rebellion doesn’t mean you are a bad kid, bad kids do things on purpose to hurt other people.” - Louise

“I’m a good kid but I definitely have a rebellious side sometimes.” - Sally

“I’m a good kid on the surface - good grades, good job - but I’ve been caught drinking and partying before.” -- Krista

DEFINING GOOD Teens’ take on what it takes to be good.


SPREADING THE GOODWILL Despite stumbles, teens view themselves as genuinely good kids at heart. Goodness shines through when they demonstrate their values through actions:



‘’One time I heard this guy being really aggressive with his girlfriend. My friends and I stuck around to make sure she was okay.” - Adam

‘’There was this guy near the school, and his truck was broke down. I ran over to help him and told him how to put the car in neutral so we could push it.’’ - Theo

TEACHING THE YOUNGER KIDS “I have helped out my community by teaching kids to make Eskimo dancing drums to remember our heritage.’’ - Neil


THE STRUGGLE IS REAL Fighting the temptation to make bad choices is a daily battle.


TOP TEMPTING TIMES Teens are often tempted, but many dig deep to overcome temptations.

- Tricia

“ - Chris


- Elaine

BEING GOOD CAN SOMETIMES MEAN BEING BORING Temptation is hard to ignore when the alternative is perceived boredom.

- Simon

- Sarah

- Chris


THE STRUGGLE IS REAL Fighting the temptation to make bad choices is a daily battle.


Positive role models keep them on the up and up Everyone has an influence, and teens turn to grown-ups for guidance through the lens of history.

The Usual Suspects:



“I’ve learned over the years that I can really count on my parents’ advice, especially now that I am honest with them about the decisions I’m facing.” - Alex

“My friends are the number one people in my life. I lean on them for everything.” – Melissa

The Other Constants:

people from church

sports coaches


“I have a friend from church that I really admire that just joined the Marines. I look to him for advice and he makes me want to do the right thing.” – Sean

“I always rely on my hockey coach. He has known me forever and knows who I am as a person. He always tries to help me make the right decisions.” – Simon

“My manager always helps me when I am down, and she makes me want to do the same thing for her and for other people.” – Sally


FINDING WORTH IN BEING GOOD Making good choices leads to the path of a good future.


BEING GOOD IS A WORTHWHILE CHOICE It’s a choice that sparks an array of emotions.

“I helped a lady with her groceries in the elevator, and I will always remember her smile.” - Peter

- Luke

- Melanie

BAD DECISIONS BRING HEAVY CONSEQUENCES Choosing bad over good can have a long-lasting impact.

- Sarah


- Dave

- Krista

FINDING WORTH IN BEING GOOD Making good choices leads to the path of a good future.


LEARNING TO BE GOOD FROM BEING BAD Being good wasn’t always the obvious choice, and they’ve had to learn from their mistakes.

“When I was younger, I shoplifted a lot. I felt horrible when I did it.”

“I wanted to look cool in front of a new friend, so I shoplifted makeup with her.”



P 16



It is born from the people that surround you, and it inherently attaches itself to negative actions.


PEER PRESSURE IS AN UNAVOIDABLE BEAST At times it can be even more overwhelming than the real-life pressures faced on a daily basis.

Usually deals with alcohol, or drugs, or being cool

Is when you are influenced by your peers to participate in something that you may or may not be comfortable with - Melanie


PEER PRESSURE is a bitch

It is born from the people that surround you, and it inherently attaches itself to negative actions.


PEER PRESSURE pops up everywhere The scenarios may range from low risk to high risk consequences, but each pressure can feel just as stifling.

real friends know the real deal And while peer pressure comes from all over, these kids know that real friends would never pressure you into doing something you didn’t want to do.

‘real friends’ know YOU INSIDE & OUT

- Luke

- Norman

“I used to hang out with this one girl and she always wanted me to make bad decisions like shoplift or drink. Even though I told her I didn’t want to. I had to stop being friends with her, and I am so glad I did.” -- Alice Kristen


e m t n a w r e v e n ld u o “ M y f r ie n d s w .” t o n m ’ I e n o e m o s e t o f e e l o b l ig at ed t o b - Dave


pitfalls of peer pressure Respondents share real-life examples of recent peer pressure they’ve faced.


sometimes it seemed unavoidable There were times when the pressure felt so great that they couldn’t say no:

- Melanie

- Dave

- Susan

sometimes it seemed unavoidable But there were some times where they put personal pride ahead of pleasing their peers:

“My friends wanted to drive through Hatcher’s Pass, and it was really foggy that day, so I said no. There was no visibility. I told them I would sit and wait for them or walk down and hitchhike. I knew it was dangerous and didn’t want to get hurt.” – Louise

“I have been sticking to my “no-weed rule.” It makes me feel worthless. Though I am often asked to go smoke, I can say no and don’t have a problem defending my reasoning anymore.” – Melanie - Alice

- Grace


- Krista

pitfalls of peer pressure Respondents share real-life examples of recent peer pressure they’ve faced.


some say they never give into peer pressure A rare few in the bunch said peer pressure was never on the table.

- Norman

- Theo

- Peter

But although they say it does not affect them directly, they still feel the pain or stress when it impacts other people in their lives, particularly others in their close friend group. “I can’t make decisions for my friends even if I want to sometimes.” - Theo

“Peer pressure doesn’t really show up in my life, but it makes me sad when I see my friends giving into dumb choices.” - Peter


social satisfaction

Social Influences in their lives inspire them to make good decisions.


up close and personal Some inspiring influences in real-life are close to home.

“I feel like I can tell my dad any-thing, and he will understand and not judge me.” - Susan - Susan

- Melanie

“My grandpa is a saint. He is practically a saint. Every day he tries to do something to help other people. The other day he was walking outside in a giant wind storm with a ladder to help fix his neighbor’s roof. He’s 88!” - William - William

in the news and online Inspiring influences in pop culture and on the Web leave lasting impressions.

- Adam

- Dave .‘“ - Sally


- Krista

- Sarah - Alice

social satisfaction

Social Influences in their lives inspire them to make good decisions.


PRESSING PAUSE ON CELEBRITY FANDOM There are some celebrities out there with a huge social influence that make these kids’ eyes roll.

“I don’t think Ariana Grande should be seen as the sweetheart everyone thinks she is. She said that Americans were horrible and licked donuts at a donut shop and put them back! She wasn’t drunk or on drugs, she was an adult and knew better. Because she apologized it makes it all okay?” - Louise

- Peter

- Michelle


LIVING IN A PRESSURE COOKER Teens are at a time in their lives when they feel pressures coming from every direction.


THE PRESSURE FROM EVERYDAY SURROUNDINGS They feel constantly stressed out and a lot of it comes from daily interactions with people in their lives that are really important to them.

- Melanie


- Luke

- Chris

- Elaine

- Norman

THE PRESSURE TO SUCCEED Societal pressures are also at play, and they are struggling to find the right balance.

- Sarah


LIVING IN A PRESSURE COOKER Teens are at a time in their lives when they feel pressures coming from every direction.




A Night in the Life


LOVING THE NIGHT LIFE Respondents describe a typical night out in the land of Alaska.


keeping it low key When they are just looking to chill and not get too crazy, most teens shared similar ideals.

alaskans can get antsy Living in rural areas and away from the rest of the U.S., Alaskan teens have to be imaginative when it comes to keeping themselves entertained.

- Louise Louise

- Elaine Elaine

...which makes getting into trouble that much easier.

- Melanie Melanie


the good, the bad, and the ugly Let’s just say that some nights in the lives of our teens are better than others.


on a good night... Nights out are good when they are about bonding with friends in a true way.

- Lynn

- Chris

- Dave

- Alex

- Melanie

- Theo

- Elaine - Theo

on a bad night... Nights out are bad when they get bored or create bad memories. - Elaine

- Krista

- William

- Sarah - Tricia

- Sally

- Susan

- Theo


the good, the bad, and the ugly Let’s just say that some nights in the lives of our teens are better than others.


phones breed boredom Nothing is a bigger sign of boredom than when people are on their phones - in the same room - not talking to each other.

- Krista - Grace - Dave

- Luke - Norman - Leah


a chance to escape Our teen kids are leading very adult lives, so time with their friends is one of the only places they can really be kids.


the daily harsh realities 1. sally COVERS HER MOM’S SHIFT WHEN HER MOM is TOO HUNGOVER TO GO TO WORK “Today was a long day, I had to go into work for her because she was drunk this morning.’’

2. theo is HOPING HIS MOM AND HER BOYFRIEND CAN KEEP UP THEIR SOBER STREAK “They have been sober for a week and a half. I’m just afraid they’ll go back to their old habits.’’

3. melanie WATCHES HER FRIENDS DO DRUGS WITH THEIR PARENTS “I have friends whose parents roll blunts for them. That is not okay.’’

4. susan is HOPING HER RECORD is EXPUNGED BEFORE SHE TURNS 18 “I went to juvie for beating up a girl and putting her in the hospital.’’

5. adam is DEALING WITH HIS MOM’S HEALTH PROBLEMS “A good night is when my mom has had a good health day and doesn’t need to go back to the doctor.’’


a chance to escape Our teen kids are leading very adult lives, so time with their friends is one of the only places they can really be kids.


some nights alcohol does rear its ugly head

marijuana is more of a daily occurrence While alcohol is sometimes saved for more ‘’special’’ occasions, marijuana usage is more day-to-day.

- Louise

- Alex

- Sally



l o h o c l A g n i Ad d e Mix to t h


NAVIGATING THE PROS & CONS OF UNDERAGE DRINKING Our teens explained to us where the temptations lie and the consequences that (sometimes) make them reconsider.


DRINKING LIKE A ‘PRO’ Not surprisingly, the benefits of drinking alcohol all revolve around social interaction.

HOPING TO AVOID THE ‘CON’ While the pros primarily center on amping up the social scene, the cons expand into many categories.



NAVIGATING THE PROS & CONS OF UNDERAGE DRINKING Our teens explained to us where the temptations lie and the consequences that (sometimes) make them reconsider.


advice column When asked what advice they would give to someone a year younger about drinking alcohol, they fell into distinct camps.

a solid ‘no’

a ‘no’ with a caveat

“Don’t drink. It will ruin your brain. You’re too young for that.” - Norman

“I would feel hypocritical to tell someone not to do it if I have done it myself. I would tell them to try it for themselves so they can make their own decision but give them a warning about the risks.” – Louise

“Stay away from it. It will mess up your body and cause you so many problems.” – Theo


are PARENTS PART OF THE PROBLEM? While we have some that choose to sneak it, many of our respondents talked about drinking with their parents.


taking the first sip Many parents are the ones to give their children their first taste of alcohol, mainly to take away the air of mystique and try to temper the temptation.







hardened habits get passed down Respondents talked about how alcohol has negatively affected their families from generation to generation.

- Neil - Theo

- Elaine - Sally


are PARENTS PART OF THE PROBLEM? While we have some that choose to sneak it, many of our respondents talked about drinking with their parents.


- Adam


“My parents might have friends over and they will let me have a sip of beer or wine, but it’s not like I have to ask permission.” - LUKE

“Sometimes my dad will say, ‘Hey, do you want a taste of my beer?’ and I will try it but not to get drunk or anything.” - DAVE



We asked the teens to show us memes that represented how they felt about drinking.




We asked the teens to show us memes that represented how they felt about drinking.



anonymous alcoholics With alcohol being such a serious topic, our respondents were honest about the consequences, but were they honest about the occurrences?


the nay-sayers Some of our teens have never drank - and say they never will while some have gone down the drinking road and decided to never go back.

the nay-sayers norman:



never have i ever (anymore) luke:



anonymous alcoholics With alcohol being such a serious topic, our respondents were honest about the consequences, but were they honest about the occurrences?


the ones that feel like they have it all under control They admit to drinking but have some set rules in place that they think make their drinking habits less dangerous and less addictive.

Really intoxicated Drinking daily or habitually With people they can trust

Drinking with strangers

- Melissa

even the enthusiasts don’t seem that eager They admitted to enjoying alcohol but still say they don’t drink all that often.


introduction to immersion Recover Alaska & Alaska Wellness Coalition Youth Immersion Event Hosted & Facilitated by Good Run Research & Recreation Nuka Learning & Wellness Center, June 6, 2018


As a team, we immersed ourselves the learnings from Phase 1 and worked together to identify key themes and opportunities moving forward. The following summarizes the work we did together during our Immersion Event and the ideas and insights generated by our collaborative team.


Top Learnings Generated Room to Room SECTION 01

Good Kids with Good Intentions 1. Teens define “being good” by performing a direct action or “helping” someone. 2. Teens have an inherent need for adventure, even if it means that bad decisions will be made in the process. 3. What matters to us as adults really matters to them as teens – we share more values than one might think. 4. Teens normally know they “shouldn’t have done that” before they even make the choice to do it. 5. Teens want to be respected – and even liked – by their parents, even if they don’t admit it openly.


Under Pressure 1. Teens are walking stress balls that put an immense amount of pressure on themselves to succeed and fit in. 2. Peer pressure is inherently negative, lacking any sort of urge to make positive decisions. 3. There’s always ONE in the group that will never be able to say no. 4. Regardless of the generation, the pressures the teens are facing seem eerily similar to the ones we faced growing up. 5. They say it’s okay to not be perfect, but their social media habits directly contradict that attitude.



A Night in the Life 1. Alcohol and drugs are used to blow off steam and turn it down a notch vs. hype it up and get out of control. 2. Marijuana seems to carry less consequences and is more of a daily occurrence. 3. There is such a thing as good phone time and bad phone time – and bad phone time is indicated by the idle scroll without really sharing. 4. Teens could not survive without their friend group, and their daily attitudes and emotions are directly impacted by their social interaction. 5. School is more stressful than we imagined, and teens don’t like hearing about “When we were in school…”


Adding Alcohol to the Mix 1. Teens seem to think drinking is okay when they have it all “under control.” 2. They have created rules for themselves that justify their decision to drink. 3. Their scope of the consequences is small and very black or white on the spectrum – focusing on low risk (getting “in trouble” with their parents) to high risk (DUI) – with no grey in between. 4. Parents aren’t fully understanding the consequences of allowing their children to drink in their homes. 5. Teens have a distinct definition of what it means to “drink in moderation.”


team-generated what ifs? The Good / Bad Conundrum WE HEARD: Teens define being “good” as helping other people and striving to build one’s community. However, teens were quick to add that being good also means being good to yourself by honoring the goals, values, and commitments that shape our identities. In contrast, teens’ definition of “bad” is failing to obey rules and expectations, even when they contradict personal desires. As one teen put it, self indulgence, or “just doing what’s best for you” is often seen as bad behavior, even when it meets a real personal need. GRRR SAYS: Teens are notoriously (and biologically) known for impulsivity and acting on principles of instant gratification (doing what feels best, in the moment). So, what feels good, is sometimes not in line with the rules set before them. If “good” means helping others and conforming to adult expectations, and “bad” is putting self-desires first, where’s the WIN for teens, who want to be good kids, but are also keenly aware of their drive to explore, push boundaries, and be in the moment? Some self-define these tendencies as a “rebellious side,” but indulging that side helps them to grow, develops and hones character, and shapes their future choices and sense of self. With so much contradiction and confusion, it’s no wonder some teens get caught in the crossfire, and end up feeling trapped, like they “can’t win,” or worse - as though they are failing themselves, their families, or their friends at every pressure point despite their best intentions. WE WONDER, WHAT IF...


We taught teens that there’s a difference between character and actions or feelings - that actions don’t always define character, but that our goal as we grow is to align the two?

Social media-based “do overs” so that teens are able to erase one-time fails or slips (as they exist online anyway) forever, essentially granting a blank slate, and giving teens a chance to reflect and express what they wish they had done differently?

We stopped labeling teens’ as “good” or “bad,” and instead focused on connecting choices with outcomes? Adults in the community shared the choices they’ve made, including those they wish they hadn’t, and the impact it had on them? Might exposing our vulnerabilities and imperfections as adults, open doors to honest conversations with our youth? We found a way to celebrate lessons learned, even (especially?) if the hard way? Could a teen-to-teen platform enable them to share their own imperfect choices, why they regret them, and the lessons learned that they’d like to pass along? We provided a path forward when teens scratch the itch of instant gratification, so that rather than focusing on the fail, we focus on finding a foothold and forging a path up and out?


A safe house for anonymous communication (letters, email, tweets, posts, chats) moderated by young adults, giving teens an approachable platform to share experiences, “confess” choices made that don’t align with adult expectations, and receive positive direction (via connections to experts when needed) from young adults who have “been there.” Easy outs for teens when they’re in a tough situation: For example, a number to text that would respond with things to say to friends when pressure is on to join in. These could be humorous, but real and effective, or more direct, and teens could set the tone and customize. Celebrities or influencers could write them, either in real time or ahead of the game.

Social media = Pressure to maintain appearances WE HEARD: Social media has long been a powerful influence, but its power and presence is growing exponentially. Hot-listed apps are spread virally from teen to teen, and often as soon as parents and adults catch up and make their way on the platform, it’s already over. Social media enables connection, but it also becomes a yardstick by which teens measure each other and themselves. Though teens are aware most pictures are filtered, both for content and physical aesthetics, they perceive what’s posted by their peers as “reality.” So, when their own reality doesn’t stack up to social media reflections, even the knowledge it’s filtered, doesn’t make falling short feel better. GRRR SAYS: Teens are experts at social image management. It’s not uncommon for them to have multiple Instagram (and other social media) accounts, so they can express multiple components of their lives and personalities that they feel can’t exist coexist. For example, we’ve heard teens describe three (or more!) separate Instagram handles / accounts — some public, some, not-so-much.


For public or parental-approved postings. Family trips, casual friend and family photos, life events.


For posting friend-approved, but often parent-disapproved content. Dares. Pranks. Provocative images. Drinking pics.


For posting silly content: memes, jokes, silly images.

For teens, having multiple social identities is freedom to express all of the elements of their lives, and understanding that adults and peers have different definitions of what’s valuable and appropriate. It’s also about taking control of the tech reins and getting one over on the adults who don’t know any better. For some, there’s a thrill in getting away with it and creating a online personas suited for a specific audience or use. We heard this conflict between teens’ values for themselves and adults’ expectations of them, about everything from school to sports to social events. The ‘standards’ adults set and impose on teens are not always aligned with what THEY want for themselves. Cue conflict. WE WONDER, WHAT IF...


What if we enabled and encouraged teens to remove their filters – literally and figuratively? Is there an opportunity to help balance the pressure of ideals by celebrating what’s real?

A day when everyone’s filters and edits go away, enabling the “real” to shine, and importantly, for teens to be in the same, unfiltered boat together. Conversations might become unfiltered too—sure, drinking pics might look “cool” on Finsta accounts, but what do unfiltered feelings and conversations reveal? If we could get teens talking about the reasons they actually choose to drink, maybe we’d also get them connecting and supporting each other positively.

What if we shifted the conversation from adults telling teens what to do to teens value (and thus want to do)? Could adults be liaisons between these two seemingly conflicting worlds? What if adults mirrored the social media behavior of our teens by separating our content by different accounts, and sharing them all? Might this demonstrate understanding of the mixed feelings and pressures from different audiences, and enable open guidance?

An augmented reality app or installation, allowing teens to hold up phone images, revealing filters, edits, outtakes, etc. so they can see for themselves that others have the same vulnerabilities they do. Programs for adults who are influencers (parents, teachers, coaches, elders) to help them understand different forms of social media and different accounts teens feel the need to create. If adults could create examples of what their own Finsta accounts might reveal, they might connect with teens over common vulnerabilities that prime teens to listen to their advice, not just hear it.


team-generated what ifs? For teens, social consequences count more than legalities. WE HEARD: All of the teens we spoke with were well-aware of the legal consequences of underage drinking. Yet, with the exception of a DUI (they draw the line at drinking and driving, in general), legal consequences aren’t something teens factor into the drinking equation. The social benefits of partaking often outweigh any potential interactions with law enforcement, to the extent they’re thought of at all. Much more factored into a teen’s decision to drink are the potential social and emotional consequences such as missing out on social activities or sports, disappointing parents, or being embarrassed by behavior while drinking. Those who had suffered emotional or social consequences described having learned “the hard way,” that the cost of drinking “isn’t worth it.” GRRR SAYS: The motivational power of social and emotional consequences isn’t unique to teens or to the category. As human beings, we’re hard-wired to belong, and to shape ourselves within the context of those around us. However, the need to belong and fit in is magnified for teens and they figure out where they fit in the world and within the high school social hierarchy. This is why we see teens trying so hard to “be different… just like everyone else.” They go with the flow/group when more vulnerable or in greater emotional need, and they take steps to define and differentiate from the group when more secure. WE WONDER, WHAT IF...


We could tap group leaders and influencers, as “brand stewards” for positive choices?

Initiatives to “catch teens” in the act of doing something positive

We shifted focus from legal/authoritative consequence to the social scorekeeping that matters most to teens?

A positive consequence program, with the consequences for making positive choices tangible (gift cards, scholarships, access to events, opportunities to travel). Maybe there’s a punch card (could be app based or old-school), customized to reflect activities without alcohol in each community, and redeemable when it’s filled. Even when there’s “nothing to do,” there are things to do—creating, connecting, visiting… maybe teens could even help share and create the activities as well as the rewards

We were able to make social consequences more top-of-mind? We implemented a positive consequence program, with the “consequences” for making positive choices be tangible, via scholarships, access to events, opportunities to travel?


When desire to JOIN and desire to AVOID collide. WE HEARD: Loud and clear, we heard it’s BORING to be a teen in Alaska. So when there’s nothing to do, drinking is exciting. Some teens described an inner tension at social events that feature alcohol—it’s buzzkill to be the odd person out at the bonfire. Pressure to drink comes from two internal desires:the knowledge it’s filtered, doesn’t make falling short feel better. 1) Desire to join the party and share the experience everyone else seems to be having. Teens told us that alcohol helps them loosen up, be more expressive, and more outgoing, and FOMO plays a big part. Being part of the action, and “in” all the way, is a powerful motivator. 2) Desire to avoid the awkwardness of being the sole sober witness, and the responsibility of “babysitting” friends. Many recounted situations where they were the one stuck taking care of friends who crossed the line.

GRRR SAYS: As a teen, navigating friendships and loyalties can get confusing. When there are social activities and their friends are in, they want to seize the moment and be part of it, too. But even the teens who don’t plan on drinking have such a strong desire to join that they rethink the drink. Many report that they “end up” drinking. “Just say no” messaging isn’t enough to deter teens who are lulled into saying yes in the moment. WE WONDER, WHAT IF...


We helped teens stay the course when fighting in-the-moment desires?

An “invitation only” series of coveted events (concerts, excursions, etc) for those who commit to going dry. We could give teens the reins to create, run, and even govern the “rules” of invitation and qualification, so they’re not only involved, but invested.

We created teen-demanded social activities that don’t pair with alcohol? We know teens draw hard lines at drinking and driving … where else do they draw lines and how can we start there? The buzz is tied to staying sober and FOMO comes from alcohol-fuzzy memories? We shifted focus from doing to being, especially in winter months, to help teens see “staying inside” as a positive? We took advantage of mobile technology to put fun and games in the hands of teens?

Initiatives to remove barriers to winter sports participation by funneling financial resources towards winter scholarships, enabling those without the financial means to participate in sports and other winter activities Programming to dial up mindfulness and emotional understanding/processing

We flipped the script on what it means to be “cool,” by highlighting how decidedly uncool drinking can make one look and feel?


team-generated what ifs? Adults’ intentional and unintentional influence WE HEARD: Across the board, teens told us that they look for guidance on what it means to be an adult. Parents and mentors certainly have an influence, but teens say they’re taking cues from all of the adults they meet, no matter how brief the interaction. Through observation and interaction, they begin to develop a sense of what they can and should be like as they mature. Teens certainly shared examples of adults modeling behaviors and values they know they can be proud of: kindness, helping in the community, working hard… But they also shared examples adults may not know they are setting: presenting alcohol as a reward for a long day, for example, or turning a blind eye when they know teens are drinking.

GRRR SAYS: Actions can, and often do, speak louder than words. When teens come home smelling of alcohol, and parents dismiss it or “wink” it off as being tired or sick, they hear the message that this is a rule it’s ok to break, and that someone will cover for you when you do. Worse, they may internalize that drinking lands them a spot in a secret club that parents and other adults are part of. Similarly, sometimes words, spoken carelessly, are lost in translation. When teens hear adults say “I need a drink,” they internalize the message that sometimes life hands us situations that can’t be overcome without alcohol. When they hear adults calling for a toast, they may hear that life’s wins are sweetened with alcohol. As adults, we understand the nuances in meaning and actions, but we may fail to understand their impact on developing minds who don’t yet have the context to make those distinctions. WE WONDER, WHAT IF...


The issue that we should be addressing is not what teens do, but what adults are teaching them to do?

Tools for parents to use in the moment, to help them respond to observation and awareness of teen drinking in a positive and constructive way

We helped adults make a roadmap to adulting for teens to follow that enables adult influences to be positive examples? We completely transform the meaning of spirited milestone celebrations? What else could we pair with celebrations as a positive substitute?


Demystification initiatives to enable parents who want to demonstrate boundaries and moderation within their own lives and the context of their own, private homes Awareness and accountability programs for adults and teens to use together. As a team, both agree to full transparency and honesty. And as a team, they score points for honesty, and for conversations around choices and actions individually. Adults and teens give and receive feedback on how their choices impact one another.


TEEN panel: BEHIND THE CURTAIN Behind the curtain, while the grown ups rolled up their sleeves, the teens had a few things to say about what it’s like to be a teen, growing up in Alaska.

Like it or not, growing up in Alaska is all about being outside. If that’s not your thing, there isn’t much to do. Recreation revolves around playing outside. Everyone gets so excited in the summer, and if you’re not into the outdoors, you’re basically left out. Everything revolves around the outdoors. In the winter, it’s skiing and hockey. Those are both really expensive, so if you aren’t into OR can’t afford it, that makes it tough. Summer = bonfires = drinking. Be there or be square.

We know the rules, but following them is not a given. We are bored, and acting out is a way to keep ourselves and everyone on their toes. If kids aren’t drinking, they are smoking pot. Those are basically the two ways to feel something beyond boredom. The one thing we all feel more than anything is friendship. Hanging out and making memories is everything.

While being good is nice and all, it’s sometimes easier to be bad. Adults know when we’re drinking at a dance or cotillion. They just turn a blind eye and expect us to be as safe as we can. We know when and where we can drink, and we basically get away with it every time. Our parents pretend they’re asleep when we get home, or they ask if we’re tired. We keep it on the downlow. That’s the understood rule. Notably – some parents have a no tolerance policy! It’s all or nothing. Kids are either diving in and taking risks or taking a full abstinence policy. While moderation is the name of the game, you’re either “in” or “out” when it comes to underage drinking.


Getting away with it is the name of the game. See my Snapchat or Finstagram feed for proof: getting lit is life. Drugs and alcohol are what make life exciting, honestly. It makes things more fun. While weed is “easier” to get away with, because you can do it and drive, alcohol is a party focus. It makes you more loose, and just makes things more fun.

We’ve seen the ads out there about not drinking, but they just preach. They don’t say anything new, and I don’t pay attention or remember anything about them. They are preachy and don’t show real life. Honestly, we aren’t listening. They don’t say anything new. They seem fake. It’s not my actual life, and the reality is what it is.

Our fantasy world is to have more, new, and different things to do! Get me out of this boredom. Give us: • Amusement parks • Professional sports • Drive-in movies • Sonic Drive-In and Chick-Fil-A


questions for additional consideration The teen panelists were eloquent, smart, and thought provoking. Sometimes they left us speechless. The best part is that they left us with more questions. THEY SAID: When I am with people I respect, I am less likely to make bad decisions. OKAY, SO: When do you feel most respected? Who are you with? THEY SAID: I face a lot of stress – both at school and from my family – sometimes on a daily basis. OKAY, SO: Is there such thing as healthy stress or “positive pressures?” THEY SAID: Adults love to ask us if we’re “good kids”, but they never talk about themselves. OKAY, SO: What does it mean to be a “good adult?” THEY SAID: I know that my “good” friends always have my back. OKAY, SO: Define a “good friend.” Does being a “good friend” change when it’s related to decisions involving alcohol? THEY SAID: You can’t know something is bad or wrong until you make that mistake and then learn from it. OKAY, SO: What lesson taught you alcohol isn’t worth it? THEY SAID: I feel like I need alcohol to de-stress or give me an escape from all the daily pressures. OKAY, SO: What are “healthy” coping mechanisms? THEY SAID: There is nothing to do in Alaska. We need more activities. OKAY, SO: What activities would actually make you show up and participate? THEY SAID: I never want to miss out on anything. I like feeling like I am part of a group. OKAY, SO: When do you feel most connected? Who are you with and what are you doing?


do’s & don’ts The teen respondents taught us valuable lessons and guiding principles to keep in mind as you look to make a strong emotional connection with them that ties to your important message.



Consider to use co-creation with teens to continue to develop relevant messaging.

Use irrelevant forms of social media that will position you as not in the know or “uncool.”

Empower teens to make good choices as a source of self-pride.

Make them feel stupid or “too young” to make informed decisions.

Promote that your initiative genuinely cares about them and their personal successes.

Belabor or focus on the consequences of bad decisions.

Focus on realistic messaging, not things that sugar coat the issues.

Keep rehashing lessons that adults have learned the hard way.

Use the current teen supporters to promote your message to other teens.

Tell them that everything they do is wrong or that they constantly make bad decisions.

Make your messaging adjustable to local communities rather than having a “state-wide” feel.

Make them feel embarrassed for making questionable decisions in the moment.

Show that you respect their decisions and their intelligence. Reinforce messages of safety without engaging in a punitive tone.

Use a celebrity to promote your cause. Rely on one message (i.e.: ‘Don’t Drink’) to fully explain your initiative and overall message


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