APA has joined with the creators of Smokey the Bear and the "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" advertising campaign to stem adult modeling of violence to children.
The Advertising Council, Inc., which has run public-education campaigns against problems such as drunk driving, pollution and crime for more than 50 years, is working with APA and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to create a national media campaign to teach parents, teachers and other caregivers that their own violent or aggressive behavior can lead to the same behavior in young children.
The campaign is part of the ACT (Adults and Children Together) Against Violence initiative, an early childhood violence prevention project developed by APA and NAEYC. Through the media campaign and community training programs run by APA and NAEYC, ACT will emphasize that caregivers, through their nonviolent actions, can teach young children positive, nonviolent responses to conflict, anger and frustration.
"Kids learn more from what people do than what people say," says Jacquelyn Gentry, PhD, director of public interest initiatives in APA's Public Interest Directorate. "Violence is primarily a learned behavior, and kids who see constructive ways to deal with anger, frustration and disappointment are learning violence prevention."
Research on violence prevention, aggression and early childhood development by psychologists and sociologists provide the foundation for the ACT initiative--formerly called the Reason to Hope campaign, says Gentry, who has been working with experts in violence prevention and child development to develop the project for four years. ACT focuses on the critical years of early childhood, ages 2 to 8, and targets the people with the most influence over young children--parents, teachers and other caregivers.
Reaching the nation...
With the Ad Council sponsorship, a top-notch advertising agency donates its creative services to develop the campaign materials and public-service announcements; APA and NAEYC pay only for production of the materials. In addition, donated broadcast time for television and radio public service announcements distributed through the Ad Council has a commercial value of between $40 million and $50 million a year for each campaign.
For the media campaign, the advertising agency for APA and NAEYC held focus groups with parents and early child educators on their beliefs about violence to find out what messages would be most effective and memorable.
"We're trying to create a useful, practical campaign that gives people actionable skills and actionable information," says Rhea K. Farberman, APA's associate executive director of public communications. "We know that violence is preventable, so we want to teach caregivers very specific things they can do to teach nonviolent problem-solving instead of violence."
Television and radio public-service announcements produced this summer will be ready for distribution later this year. Next year, the media campaign will expand to include posters for schools and hospitals, billboards and public transportation advertisements. All campaign materials will list a toll-free number and a Web site where people can order a brochure with more specific information about violence prevention for young children.
...and the community
Local, three-day workshops for mental health professionals, early childhood educators and violence prevention experts will help translate the messages of the mass media campaign into community action and education. Workshop participants will learn how to be advocates for early childhood violence prevention in their communities, and how to link with established violence prevention programs.
"After the training, the participants will go back to their communities and implement an action plan--whatever kind of early violence prevention effort that works for that community," says Julia Silva, PhD, a project development coordinator in APA's Public Interest Directorate.
The first of these training programs, a pilot workshop for between 30 and 40 participants, will be held in the fall at Monterey Peninsula Community College in Monterey, Calif., and is funded with a grant from the Packard Foundation.
APA and NAEYC will continue to raise money to fund additional training programs and to produce materials for the media campaign, says Gentry. Funded in part by APA, ACT has also received support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Foundation of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Foundation for Child Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, the Metropolitan Life Foundation and the Center for Mental Health Services.