Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Paul Florin


Social networking sites (SNSs) now serve as a primary form of socialization for adolescents. A growing body of research indicates that permissive drinking norms exist on online just as they do offline increasing teens’ risk for underage drinking and other risk behaviors. However, limited research exists on how to address this growing public health problem. The purpose of the present study was to conduct a formative investigation on how to create substance prevention interventions that address adolescents’ exposure to normative displays of substance use on SNSs. Thirty-three adolescents in grades nine through twelve were recruited from various school- and community-based youth groups involved in the Rhode Island Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success Project (SPF-PFS) which is a five-year federally funded grant aimed at reducing underage drinking and marijuana use. Four semi-structured focus groups were conducted on how to create substance prevention campaigns delivered through SNSs that successfully reach and engage adolescents in the message diffusion process. Focus groups were immediately followed by a brief self-administered questionnaire that collected information on adolescents’ social media use. Two manuscripts are presented within. The first manuscript explores how psychosocial determinants influence teens’ decisions to participate in substance prevention campaigns delivered through SNSs while the second manuscript investigates the extent to which adolescents acquired social media literacy skills as a result of participating in the focus groups. Results indicate that while substance prevention social media campaigns have the potential to reach a vast audience of young people, they are difficult to implement because the social costs of online engagement outweigh the benefits for many teens. In contrast, study findings suggest that focus groups are a viable method for delivering social media literacy interventions and may serve as a promising alternative for addressing adolescents’ exposure to online drinking norms and other risk behaviors.

Available for download on Friday, December 06, 2019