New online role-play tool helps parents talk about underage drinking with children

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)is launching a new mobile app that features a simulated new video game-like tool to help parents practice tough conversations about underage drinking in a risk-free virtual environment. This comes at a crucial time as the rate of youth alcohol use rises during the summer.

This mobile app is the newest component of “Talk. They Hear You,” SAMHSA’s underage drinking prevention campaign that launched May 2013. The campaign equips parents and caregivers with the information, tools, and confidence they need to start talking to youth early — as early as nine years old –about the dangers of alcohol.
As an evidence-based behavioral tool that uses life-like avatars to engage in interactive conversations, each virtual role-play conversation is structured as a 10 to 15-minute interactive, video game-like experience. Users enter a risk-free practice environment, assume a parental role, and engage in a conversation with an intelligent, fully animated, emotionally responsive avatar that models human behavior and adapts its responses and behaviors to the user’s conversation decisions.
“The summer season is a time of year when families spend a lot of time together,” said Frances M. Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “Now is the perfect time for parents and caregivers to connect with their children and talk about the dangers of drinking alcohol. Short, frequent discussions can make all the difference. This mobile app provides a safe place to practice these conversations and build confidence.”
Realizing that many parents and caregivers are “on the go,” SAMHSA plans to launch this mobile application in summer 2014.  In addition, SAMHSA will soon redesign the web version of the tool in 3D and allow users to choose from a new selection of diverse avatars.
Thanks to SAMHSA for the information.  For more information about SAMHSA, visit www.samhsa.gov.
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