US Ad Council's PSAs seek to prevent online sexual exploitation of girls

MUMBAI: The Advertising Council, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US have launched a series of public service advertisements (PSAs).



The PSAs have been designed to raise awareness about the prevalence of online sexual exploitation and to help teenage girls better protect themselves against online sexual predators. The new PSAs are the second instalment of the campaign, which began in May 2004 and the debut this month was timed to coincide with Internet Safety Month.

NCMEC and the Ad Council launched the campaign to remind families that, just like in the "real" world, there are people who want to harm children in the "virtual" world. With the advent of the Internet, many child-predators have quickly adapted to the technology and use it to contact potential victims in their attempts to perpetrate crimes against children.



According to a US Department of Justice study, of the estimated 24 million child Internet-users, one in five has received unwanted sexual solicitations. Teen girls are the primary target, receiving two-thirds of the solicitations. NCMEC cases and focus group testing also show that many teen girls are particularly susceptible to these predators because they tend to be more focused on relationships.

The new PSAs are an extension of the first multi-media campaign in the US designed to address this issue. The initial round of PSAs aimed to educate parents about what they could do to protect their children online, whereas the new ads target the teens themselves. The new PSAs seek to prevent girls from forming inappropriate online relationships with older men in an effort to reduce their risks of sexual exploitation and abduction. The television, radio, magazine and Internet ads direct teens to visit to get tips on how to prevent, detect, and report online sexual exploitation.



In the first six months of the Online Sexual Exploitation campaign, the parent-targeted PSAs have received more than $29 million in donated advertising time and space from the media. In addition, according to a recent Ad Council study, parents who saw the PSAs were significantly more likely to have talked to their children about the potential dangers of chatting online with people you don't know.

The new television and radio spots, which are also available in Spanish show teen girls how easily a predator can manipulate their insecurities and end with the tagline Don't Believe the Type.

As per the Ad Council model, the PSAs are beinh distributed to more than 28,000 media outlets across the US later this month and will run and air in advertising time and space donated by the media. NCMEC president Ernie Allen says, "Our goal is to reach teens before predators do. The Ad Council campaign has proven successful in reaching adults, and we hope that our message will carry over to teen girls to help them identify, prevent and report sexual exploitation they encounter while online."

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