Using a Web-Based Survey to Rapidly Assess Middle School and High School Students' Norms for Substance Use and Other Health and Safety Concerns

H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

David W. Craig, Ph.D., Dept. of Chemistry, Hobart & William Smith Colleges


Most high schools and middle schools lack the personnel and funds to design and execute ongoing assessment surveys collecting social norms data on their students. Yet, as has been widely demonstrated in college populations, students in secondary education may also misperceive peer norms. This session will present a customizable web-based survey instrument that has been used in several middle and high schools throughout the country. Strategies for secure data collection of anonymous results using this web-based instrument have been developed. Results show dramatic misperceptions among school-aged youth for alcohol, tobacco, and safety and violence norms. Furthermore, analysis of misperceptions by grade year shows clear developmental growth for each of these categories of norm misperceptions. Implications of these results for prevention efforts in middle and high schools will be discussed.

Project Objectives

Provide a rapid, cost-effective, and secure web-based survey strategy to assess middle and high school student norms, attitudes and perceptions about alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, other health issues, and school safety to support school-based social norms programs and to assess patterns of secondary student misperceptions.

Project Impact

In the last two years we have had several thousand students log onto our web site instrument from middle and high schools in diverse states across the country. Massive misperceptions have been measured with respect to alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use and with respect to other safety and health-related practices.