This R21 application will study the feasibility of using the social networking site Facebook to recruit parents to complete a self-directed parenting program to prevent teen alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and to examine the utility and acceptability of using Facebook to enhance and support this program. There is strong evidence that parenting programs are effective in preventing adolescent substance use. However, a persistent and unsolved problem is that it is difficult to recruit parents to family programs and retain them to complete all required sessions. Low recruitment and retention rates greatly reduce the potential for widespread public health impact of parenting programs. Social media may be a promising recruitment and retention tool for self- directed parenting programs but have not yet been studied in this context. Finding effective recruitment and retention strategies is important because parenting programs hold great promise for the prevention of substance use and addiction community-wide. This feasibility study will aim to recruit 100 parents using web-based respondent-driven sampling (webRDS) and Facebook advertising. Efforts will target parents of middle school-aged children in Washington State and Colorado to participate in the self-directed parenting component of the Raising Healthy Children (RHC) program. By targeting parents in Washington and Colorado, this study responds to growing concerns that youth marijuana use may be increasing in states that recently passed laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Parents are experiencing confusion about the new laws and about how to communicate with their teens concerning marijuana and other drug use within the context of legalization. Providing families with evidence-based tools will be an important part in the prevention approach needed to respond to the changing normative context around marijuana use. Recruited parents will be randomly assigned to one of two program conditions: implementation with and without social-media enhancement. Social media enhancement will consist of participation in a private Facebook group, which will provide the opportunity for informal interactions and facilitated group conversations. Qualitative analyses of Facebook group interactions and conversations will be used to uncover salient issues and themes that emerge during parent interactions. Parents in both conditions will be compared on completion rates and degree of program participation. Online pre-post surveys will be used to assess the acceptability of the social media enhancement, its utility to increase fidelity and program completion, and change in family-related risk and protective factors for teen substance, the proximal outcomes of the parenting intervention. Analyses will also assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of both recruitment methods and compare them against each other. Parents recruited using webRDS and Facebook ads will be compared on demographic characteristics, substance use, and proximal outcomes of the parenting intervention.

Public Health Relevance

Parenting programs are effective in preventing teen alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. Low recruitment and retention rates greatly reduce the widespread public health impact parent training programs could have. This study has the potential to significantly increase the public health impact of parenting programs to reduce teen alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use if using social media tools, like Facebook, for recruitment and program support proves to be feasible.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1)
Program Officer
Sims, Belinda E
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University of Washington
Schools of Social Welfare/Work
United States
Zip Code
Oesterle, Sabrina; Epstein, Marina; Haggerty, Kevin P et al. (2018) Using Facebook to Recruit Parents to Participate in a Family Program to Prevent Teen Drug Use. Prev Sci 19:559-569