How social norms impact the community: Part 1

June 21, 2013 

A social norm is a rule or standard of behavior that can be shared by members of a small social group or include all the adult members of a society. In the movie Mean Girls, the plot is based on a clique of girls who believed it was “cool” to bully others outside the “in” group.

Bullying is still happening today, but the adult members of society are working to prevent bullying from becoming an acceptable norm for society.

An impact on our community’s social norm is the acceptance of behaviors by society, the speed with which technology spreads information and the changes in generational groups.

Take a moment to reflect back to the 1950’s (if you can). The social norm for women was to stay home and care for the family, houses had one-car garages and Elvis Presley was considered indecent. Times have changed. The social changes of each decade have a major impact on what is considered “normal.”

In 2013, what concerns Lee’s Summit CARES is the proliferation of drugs.

The selling and distribution of illegal drugs is extremely lucrative. When Lee’s Summit CARES was founded in the mid 1980’s the drug concerns were tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana was available but it was not socially acceptable. We still struggle with tobacco and alcohol, but we are seeing an increase in the number of youth using prescription drugs found in household cabinets, the social acceptance of marijuana and a new industry of dangerous synthetic drugs and energy drinks.

The synthetic drugs consist of chemicals sprayed over grass-like material, packaged and sold. There is no way to know the chemical dosage in each batch. Why is it legal to sell something not FDA approved? The bags are marked “not for human consumption.” The buyers ignore the label and can roll the K2 or bath salts like a joint. Adults may not be aware of these products because they are advertised and sold over the internet and at convenience stores they are placed behind the counter.

During a Partnership to Prevent Risky Behaviors meeting in the fall of 2011, it was discussed which substance was more popular with our youth; prescription drugs or marijuana. The adults felt strongly that the acceptance of marijuana was steadily increasing. To give credence to this assumption it was decided to give a Marijuana Youth Perception Survey.

Roby Little is the director of Lee’s Summit CARES and a Lee’s Summit resident.

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