Video game could teach girls to just say 'no' to peer pressure

Teaching middle schoolers how to say "no" to peer pressure could soon come in the form of a video game.

Professor Anne Norris at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies created the program Mighty Girls with funding from the National Institute for Nursing Research to give girls the tools to stand up for themselves and be considerate, confident and convincing.

"It's a combination of classroom and virtual reality gameplay, and it's really designed to build skills and help resist peer pressure," Norris said.

Indira Singh was nervous when she started middle school.  

"(Because) it was a big change. My elementary school was a very small school compared to the school I'm going to now," Singh said.

Singh's mother worried about peer pressure overwhelming her 12-year-old daughter.

"She's open to anybody, and it's easy to get influenced by anything," Cecilia Singh said.

Singh is participating in the Mighty Girls program.

Norris is recruiting girls of Hispanic/Latino backgrounds in seventh grade and following them until the fall of ninth grade for her study.

"Youth (gets) involved in risky behavior. and it's that behavior that can have lifetime consequences," Norris said

The game teaches girls the "refuse" skill: how to refuse to be pressured to do things they don't want to do.  That means communicating with a confident voice and body language to match.

"It's that getting stuck and not knowing what to say that can make our children very vulnerable," Norris said.

Singh's mother said the program has given her daughter the power to just say "no."

A study testing the influence of Mighty Girls is underway in 20 Miami-Dade public middle schools.

Depending on the results, Norris hopes to expand the program nationwide.

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