WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The Woodland Park Municipal Alliance Against Alcoholism and Drug Abuse sponsored a six-part workshop called "We're Not Buying It" over the last two weeks for Memorial School sixth graders, given by Jen Boyle from the Center for Prevention, based in Newton.
The program aims to prevent or delay the onset of alcohol, marijuana, and drug use, and to prevent bullying. Participants learn how to deconstruct media messages that promote or glamorize substance use. With a better understanding of the marketing directed toward them, students are better able to resist messages and to make healthy decisions.
Sessions focused on 'media is everywhere,' alcohol in the movies, marijuana use, prescription drugs, and bullying. Boyle customized the sessions for each class as she said some were more knowledgeable than others on the topics discussed.
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At each session, "fast fact" sheets were handed out and students picked ones they wanted to discuss, such as "1 in 5 say painkillers are not addictive" and "each day an average of 2,000 teens will try prescription drugs recreationally for the first time."
Students discussed healthy ways to deal with stress. They offered suggestions including talking to friends, going to the park, and listening to music. In addition, they talked about refusal skills should they ever be offered alcohol or a drug. Students brainstormed in small groups to come up with ideas. They included, "Nah, I'm good;" "Tell the person the bad things that can happen to them;" and "No thanks, I already have something called a life." Boyle noted that, "Mom said I can't" is one of the best. "Use your parents as an excuse whenever you can, as it can't be disputed," she said.
Boyle encouraged the students to be open with their parents about the dangers. She said it's important to have a plan with parents that includes a "code word" they can text to them if they are in need of help. "Discuss with them what you can do to get out of a situation," she stressed.
Students also spoke in depth about staying safe on social media. Boyle said the most important things kids can do are to never lie about their age, keep profiles private, and never share a password with anyone but parents. "It is your account," she said. "And you will be responsible for what is posted and incur the consequence."
Cyberbullying was also discussed. After discussing some fast facts, students worked in small groups to come up with anti-bullying slogans. Some ideas were: "Bullying is bad; it makes people sad;" "Be helpful, not hurtful;" and "Stand up; don't stand down."