In an effort to strengthen the safety of New Hampshire's communities by helping parents, professionals and youth understand media's role in influencing behavior, Governor Maggie Hassan today announced a public-private initiative aimed at reducing and preventing youth violence.
Funded through a grant from the Office of the Attorney General, the initiative will enable Manchester-based Media Power Youth, a nonprofit organization and leader in media literacy education, to offer free teacher training and curricula to elementary schools statewide with technical support from the New Hampshire Department of Education. In addition, middle and high school programs and parent programs will be provided in selected communities.
"We must work together to improve the safety of our communities and to reduce violence, especially among our young people," Governor Hassan said. "While not the only cause of violence, media is increasingly shaping the choices, attitudes, behaviors, and learning abilities of children and teens.
"Through this new research-based initiative, we will work to reduce the impact of media violence, guide children to make healthy choices, and reduce the risk of violence and crime in our schools and communities," Governor Hassan said. "This initiative, along with our work to strengthen mental health services and to improve school safety, will add to New Hampshire's ongoing efforts to make our communities safer and stronger."
In the New Hampshire tradition of grassroots collaboration, the Media Power Youth program will be a public-private partnership, bringing together leaders from the fields of criminal justice, law enforcement, education, health and human services, health care, foundations, and business, as well as parents and community members.
Media Power Youth Executive Director Rona Zlokower praised the Governor and the Office of the Attorney General for their proactive leadership. "Media education can help reduce violent behavior in children. Thoughtful and positive media use is linked to greater empathy, healthier choices, more connectedness, better conflict resolution skills and improved academic performance," Zlokower said.
She emphasized that media has moved beyond print, movies, TV, music, and gaming to social media in all its forms. "Media are active participants in our children's lives; providing the tools for them to communicate with each other and the world around them. Media education helps youth make the connection and distinction between media messages and impact and their own lives and actions."
According to Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice, "Increasingly there are reports in the news of children killing themselves, their peers and others. Violence, aggression, disrespect, bullying and cyber-bullying - all behaviors which can be destructive, even if they never reach the level of criminal activity - are also becoming more prevalent in children. All too often, the influence of media is seen as a contributing factor."
"Violence, especially that perpetrated by youth, is preventable. Through this program, the Office of the Attorney General looks forward to partnering with Media Power Youth, New Hampshire school districts and communities to promote this common goal."
Governor Hassan included $100,000 in violence prevention grant funding in the FY 2014/2015 state budget, and the $50,000 grant for the first year was approved earlier this year by the Executive Council.
Media Power Youth utilizes evidence-based practices and programs that have been found to be effective by independent evaluation and review. Evaluations have shown that Media Power Youth programs help students actively speak about the negative aspects of media and increase their understanding of advertising influences and techniques in order to make their own healthy choices. Both students and parents demonstrated that they would seek to implement their skills outside of the curriculum. For more information, visit www.mediapoweryouth.org.
Joining the Governor and Deputy Attorney General Rice at today's announcement were Education Commissioner Virginia Barry, Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas, US Attorney John Kacavas, Dr. Sol Rockenmacher of the NH Pediatric Society, Tym Rourke of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Chief Mike Sielicki, President of the NH Association of Chiefs of Police, and Rona Zlokower and Sarah Shanahan from Media Power Youth.