A Fraser Coast high school is the first of 20 Queensland schools to take part in new Griffith University research into changing teenage attitudes towards alcohol.

Students at St Mary’s Catholic School in Maryborough will take part in the Game On: Know Alcohol project on Thursday (Nov 7).

“Teenage attitudes to risky drinking can be changed for the better, using a combination of classroom education and social marketing,” Timo Dietrich, a Department of Marketing researcher at Griffith University, said.

The 20-school study follows a pilot study involving three Brisbane high schools where preliminary findings showed that students were more inclined to change behavioral intentions towards alcohol after participating in a series of specially-designed online games and practical activities.

The findings from the pilot study led to the development of three new games, including an interactive quiz. ‘Dumb Driver’ allows students’ to explore how alcohol effects driving while ‘Perfect Pour’ has students stepping into the role of a bartender trying to pour one standard drink of an alcoholic beverage.

BeerGogglesIn addition to the online games the program includes a range of practical activities showing the effects of alcohol and providing strategies to drink less. The 87 Year-10 Maryborough students will take part in a number of interactive exercises such as wearing beer goggles, lying in a gutter, and reflecting on emotional experiences with alcohol.

“We are not telling young people what to do but by taking part in the day we believe students will learn from their experience and their behavior intentions will change for the better,” Timo Dietrich said.

“In a world where a person is exposed to more than 3000 marketing messages each day, we are offering an alternative message that lets teenagers know they have a choice.”

Research shows young people are 239 times more likely to see an alcohol advertisement than an advert promoting safe drinking.

The Griffith research is supported by a $162,810 Linkage Project grant awarded by the Australian Research Council earlier this year, and by the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Griffith’s industry partner for the project.

“Our aim is to educate students about the effects of alcohol, give knowledge of standard drinks and provide a range of strategies to minimise alcohol consumption,” Associate Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, project leader, said.

“We are aware that this program is not the silver bullet, but one important step in the pursuit of altering Australia’s drinking culture.

“The upcoming Schoolies season and the drinking behavior associated with the celebrations is a timely reminder of why such a culture change would be welcomed.”