Sustainability: The Journal of Record
How influential are teens in prompting clean air actions among their parents? What factors improve effectiveness of teen communication? To answer these questions, the authors surveyed both teen participants and their parents in the 2018 iteration of an annual high school clean air poster contest. Seventy‐one percent of parents (N=114) reported that their teens talked to them about air pollution as a consequence of the poster contest, and teens who discussed specific actions for preserving air quality had the most influence on changing parent behaviors. Interestingly, only a few parents described their teens’ social influence as pestering or annoying. Rather, most parents reported that their teens simply initiated a reasoned conversation about local air pollution and solutions, and some even welcomed it! This article discusses the implications of these findings and future research directions about understanding how adolescents may become persuasive change agents through their proactive knowledge dissemination.
2017: The Inconvenient Youth: Exploring How High School Teens Voluntarily Influence (Pester?) Others on Confronting Air Pollution via a Clean Air Poster Contest
This article provides an overview of the literature on children’s influence on others in marketing and social settings and a review of our past clean‐air poster contests that were piloted on smaller scales. Details about the launch and outcomes of the expanded 2017 Utah High School Clean Air Poster contest as the context for educating teens about air pollution and clean air actions are discussed, along with the results of a voluntary post‐contest survey of contestants’ self‐reported direct impacts and their social influence on others. We investigated both the contestants’ self‐reported direct personal behavioral impacts and their unprompted behavioral influence on others in what was termed the “Inconvenient Youth” effect because adults often feel uncomfortable having youth instruct them about pro‐social behaviors. Parents, in particular, feel obliged to comply in order to maintain their children’s respect. Approximately two‐thirds of surveyed contestants reported engaging others, primarily parents and siblings, about clean air actions. Only 43 percent believed, however, that they had actually changed others’ behaviors. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of the study and future research directions to help guide others crafting their own school‐based environmental education initiatives.
In Brief, from the original contest: As part of a broader University-community engagement initiative addressing sustainability issues, professors at Utah State University joined forces with Logan City to help improve air quality via a high school clean air poster contest. Contest goals were to: 1) inform students about local air quality problems and driving behaviors that can lessen their personal impact (e.g., carpooling, refraining from idling, taking the bus); and 2) create educational outreach materials for their peers and broader community. Over 100 high school students were mentored in green messaging and graphic design by University students and faculty, resulting in over 75 poster entries. Many posters were creative, funny, and edgy, and tapped into teen pop culture, entertainment, and values. Finally, 14 winning posters were selected for community outreach, each receiving a prize from a local business, with the best overall poster receiving a grand prize from Logan City. Self-reported measures indicated that the contest increased student awareness about local air pollution, as well as increasing their willingness to change their behavior to protect air quality.