Social media can be a powerful tool or a destructive influence. We all know that well-chosen words can elevate or decimate, but we also know that time heals all wounds and being able to forget words, or at least add a rosy hue to the memory, can be a blessing.
Social media and the internet have changed that. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Words and images can go viral, often with no rhyme or reason. This can be a wonderful thing, or a dreadful thing, and we have a responsibility to understand the power of YouTube and to capitalize on it, to make sure that messages about water safety and drowning are accurate and effective.
First and foremost is understanding our target audience, because they have different needs. Young children. Older children. Teenagers and young adults. Parents.
Young children should not, ever, be educated through fear and violent images. Studies have shown that violent images beget violence in all forms and that, somewhat surprisingly, the news is very frightening to young children because they have the capacity to understand that the news is ‘real’ (as opposed to a scary movie), but not the emotional maturity to make sense of the violence or frightening events. Unfortunately there are virtually no appropriate videos targeted directly at young children on YouTube (and trust me, their older siblings are showing them plenty of other videos, like ‘How to be a Ninja’ with 31+ million views). There is a huge gap in the market that needs to be filled. I’m working to get Jabari into that market.
For slightly older children, and for their parents, I like the tone of the new video by Royal Life Saving Australia – it’s short, it’s positive, and it shows kids that they can take responsibility for staying safe while they have fun. Alternatively, Universal Studios and Swimming Australia combined forces in a very educational, and highly promotional clip.
For teenagers and young adults, all of the lifesaving organizations in the UK banded together and figured out how to educate their audience effectively about the dangers of tombstoning (jumping off cliffs).
Along the same lines but generating a fair amount of buzz is an independent 8 minute film dedicated to a 21-year old man who in a fit of ‘exuberance’ decided to swim the river at night. I’d love to get audience feedback and particularly any indication of changed attitudes or behaviors after seeing the film.
Finally, we have the plea to parents, from parents. A compelling, heartfelt, and yet positive plea by parents who have lost a child to drowning and are working to change that through education.
If you think we are safe doing nothing – check out this tombstoning video. It’s had eight times the view of the official deterrent video. Particularly like the taunting and the guys with beers at the end – pretty much sums up the issues.
If we are going to combat the destructive influence, we need to use the powerful tools at our disposal.