YMCA in Scotland Uses VR To Help Teenagers Say No To Alcohol

Date: 20 February 2020

Paisley YMCA is using immersive technologies to allow young people to have deeper discussions about their attitudes towards alcohol.

The project, funded by the Scotch Whisky Action Fund, takes a youth-centered approach – enabling young people to take full ownership of the design, delivery, and evaluation of the programme.

Through digital workshops, young people have created a series of virtual reality scenarios that will allow users to explore issues such as peer pressure, underage drinking, and risk-taking.

Darran Gillan, Youth and Programme Development Manager at YMCA Paisley, said:

“Meaningful conversations about alcohol can be difficult to initiate, virtual reality provides a great starting point for those discussions. Young people are talking about things they would not otherwise share in a youth club setting.

The immersive scenarios allow young people to see the dilemmas and challenges that others have experienced before them – in that sense, it’s a very effective preventative tool.

Having a completely youth-led project means that the scenarios come from young people’s lived experiences – that’s what makes this project impactful.”

18-year-old Jake, who was involved in developing the VR scenarios, said:

“We created a VR house party project to address the issue of underage drinking. For many young people, binge-drinking is a rite of passage and we wanted to raise awareness to the fact that this can leave them extremely vulnerable. Social media also plays a big part in peer pressure and it can be used to shame people. This project engages deeply with all these issues with scenarios that come from our shared experiences.”

In the next few months, the young people from Paisley YMCA will bring this interactive programme to schools and youth clubs throughout Renfrewshire.