Through a national media campaign, APA is urging millions of parents, teachers and early childhood caregivers to stem their own violent or aggressive behavior that can lead to the same behavior in young children.
A 30-second public service announcement, created by the "ACT (Adults and Children Together) Against Violence" initiative, began airing in February on the four major television networks--CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. The ACT initiative is a collaboration of APA, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Ad Council, the organization that created the "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" ad campaign.
In the commercial, the image of a baby sleeping as a lullaby plays is juxtaposed with images and sounds of a parent screaming insults at a child, grabbing a child and, finally, a child pointing a gun. The series of images sends the message that young children who are exposed to conflict and anger can become violent teen-agers and adults, and it's up to caregivers, through their nonviolent behavior, to teach young children positive, nonviolent responses to conflict and anger.
"The concept is that a child, even in the earliest part of life, will watch and learn from nearby adults," says Jacquelyn Gentry, PhD, director of the public interest initiatives office in APA's Public Interest Directorate. "The youngster will learn either problem-solving through aggression and violence, or problem-solving through methods like sharing and cooperation."
Getting the word out
Television public service announcements are only the first phase of the ACT Against Violence advertising campaign. Radio public service announcements will air in the spring, followed by billboards and public transportation advertisements this summer.
"What we hope will happen is that the television and radio spots whet people's appetite for more information, that they see themselves in the spot and think, 'I might be guilty of that behavior around my child, and what information can I get that would help me do better?'" says APA's Rhea K. Farberman, associate executive director of APA's public communications office.
All materials will list an 800 number that people can call to order an informational brochure on social problem-solving, nonviolent discipline methods and ways to handle anger. Advertisements will also direct consumers to the ACT Web site, www.actagainstviolence.org [coming in March], which offers research-based information on child development, anger management, ways to help children navigate the media and tips on handling a problem child.
With Ad Council sponsorship, television and radio stations donate broadcast time for the public service announcements. Because of the Ad Council's long-standing reputation for quality advertising, the typical Ad Council campaign receives about $45 million to $50 million of donated time each year, says Farberman. "That adds a level of credibility to the campaign that we wouldn't have on our own."
APA members can boost the campaign's success by creating a market for it, Farberman adds. For example, members can help create a market by contacting their local TV and radio stations, speaking to the public service directors to make sure they are aware of the campaign and aware of the psychological foundation the campaign is built on, Farberman adds.
In conjunction with the national media campaign, community training programs--run by APA and NAEYC--will teach mental health professionals, early childhood educators and violence prevention experts to be advocates for early childhood violence prevention.
In the workshops, trainees develop a prevention plan for their communities and use materials from the national advertising campaign to support the plan, says APA's Julia Silva, PhD, a project coordinator for the ACT initiative. The workshops also teach participants how to link with established community violence prevention programs.
"Barriers for collaboration can be very challenging," says Silva. "We teach them how to overcome the barriers."
Thirty-one participants, representing a local police department, child protective services, domestic violence prevention organizations, Head Start, a local psychological association and early childhood education groups, participated in the first ACT Against Violence training program, held Nov. 30Dec. 2 in Monterey, Calif.
A possible site for the second training program is Randolph, N.J., and other programs are being developed for Kansas City, Mo., and Washington, D.C.
A boost for ACT
Members are already rallying behind the "ACT (Adults and Children Together) Against Violence" initiative. At its biannual meeting in January, the trustees of the American Psychological Foundation (APF) presented the initiative with a $25,000 grant.
"When the ACT project was brought to our attention, we perceived the obvious fit with our priority," says APF President Dorothy Cantor, PsyD. "The project synthesizes what is known about violence and young children, and innovatively brings the message to parents through the media."
The grant will help fund production and distribution of print and display advertising for the ACT media campaign, and maintenance of the toll-free response system and the campaign's Web site, www.actagainstviolence.org.
The endowment is the largest nonrestricted grant the foundation has given, says APF Director Elisabeth Straus.
"This is the first time the foundation has had the discretion to give a sizeable grant to a program designated as a foundation initiative," says Straus. "APF is really proud to be affiliated with this campaign."
The grant to "ACT Against Violence" is part of APF's "Campaign for a New Era," an effort to raise money to help psychologists find solutions for behavior and social problems such as violence and explore the relationship between mental and physical health.