Smtg to think abt: Txting could help reduce teen drinking

Apr 22, 2013, 13:02 ET from Florida International University

MIAMI, April 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers at FIU want to determine if a teenager's favorite form of communication – text messaging – can be used to modify risky behavior, in particular, underage drinking.

Other studies have suggested that texting can be effective in reducing the consumption of alcohol among teenagers. The FIU study will test that theory and take it one step further by studying Hispanic teenagers, a group considered high-risk for alcohol use.

According to a comprehensive 2012 study by researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, Hispanic teens report more underage drinking – as much as 35 percent more in 8th and 10th grade – than their non-Hispanic white and African-American peers.

Alcohol consumption among teenagers is particularly problematic because adolescents who use substances at earlier ages are more likely to develop substance abuse and dependence problems, said FIU professor of social work Eric Wagner, who directs FIU's Community-Based Intervention Research Group (C-BIRG) and leads this study.

"Hispanic adolescents are underserved and underrepresented in health care services and underrepresented in research, and we are excited to be able to bring this kind of prevention to this population," Wagner said.

Conducted in two phases, the first part of the study will begin with the messaging itself. Teen volunteers, identified through the adolescent medicine group at Miami Children's Hospital, will serve as a focus group for the content and style of the text messages. They will also help determine the timing of the prescheduled texts. 

"We're adjusting the text messages to fit best with the kids' experiences," Wagner said. "The kids will give us feedback on what the texts should say and when they should be going out."

The clinical trial aspect of the project will consist of a random selection of adolescents receiving targeted texts over 14 weeks, with messaging designed to "reduce their drinking or at least to pay attention to things that would reduce their harm from drinking," Wagner said. The other half would receive general context texts.

"Text messaging is a low-cost intervention that we think might be a very effective way of broadly covering kids at risk for underage drinking, and reducing the likelihood that they and their families and society will suffer harm from their drinking," Wagner said.

Media Contact: Robyn Nissim 

SOURCE Florida International University