- go a few miles over the speed limit?
- never wear white after Labor Day?
- refrain from picking your nose in public?
- ask someone how they are doing and keep walking past them?
- talk to someone in another stall in the bathroom?
- eat off other peoples’ plates?
- choose not to use all capital letters when you text because you know that is considered “shouting”?
What do all of these behaviors have in common?
They are all social norms, rules and accepted behaviors for how people should or should not act in a given group or society. We don’t even think about why we do all of these things. We have always done them. Some social norms are spoken and defined while others are unspoken and undefined. They can change with time, and they can change depending on the group, society, or culture.
Social norms drive our behaviors. We do them because we think that the majority of people are doing them, and it is the normal thing to do.
But sometimes, people may misperceive a social norm and think that a behavior occurs more often than it really does.
When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, this can be a slippery slope. For example, teens are out at a party where alcohol is being served. If they think that most of the people their age drink alcohol, then they will feel greater pressure to belong and take a drink. Why do they think that most of their peers drink, and how does that influence their behavior?
This will help explain why:
Social norms campaigns help to clarify misperceptions of certain norms by communicating the truth that most do not engage in those behaviors. Studies show that, as a result, these campaigns can actually reduce this type of risky behavior. By focusing on the positive, we can help protect our youth and keep our communities safe!
Below are some examples of social norms campaigns that have done just that!
Do you have any resources on social norms campaigns that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!
According to Gwinnett County survey data, alcohol is the substance most used among middle and high school students. The data show that 22% of high school students report using alcohol in the past 30 days. Many students also report that they are able to gain access to alcohol from their family or other adults.1
The prevention of underage drinking and easy access to alcohol for underage youth is a high priority in our county. Gwinnett United in Drug Education, Inc. (GUIDE) understands the importance of alcohol prevention and has numerous efforts underway to address issues regarding underage drinking and easy access to alcohol.
In honor of April being Alcohol Awareness Month, GUIDE along with teams of youth and adult volunteers is conducting a Sticker Shock campaign to raise awareness in the Gwinnett community about underage drinking. The Sticker Shock campaign serves as a reminder to parents and other adults that it is against the law to provide alcohol to anyone under 21.
During April, the teams of volunteers will visit several retail stores in Gwinnett and place “warning” stickers on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers, and other alcohol products. These stickers communicate that it is against the law to provide alcohol to minors and what the penalties could be. The volunteers will also place “warning” glass clings on the stores’ front doors and coolers for a more permanent reminder of this message.
GUIDE’s Sticker Shock Coordinator, Molly Vance, believes that this campaign is important because it not only raises awareness about underage drinking, but also encourages the community to work together to keep Gwinnett healthy and safe.
GUIDE appreciates the community support for this campaign and recognizes the following retail store participants: the Beverage Superstore and Way Crest Exxon in Grayson, the 29 Package Store and La Hispaña Food Mart in Lilburn, and the Norcross Food Mart and Ruby’s Food Mart in Lawrenceville.
1 Youth health survey. (2011). Lawrenceville, Georgia: Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.