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Animated Characters for Youth Violence Prevention

Update Date: Apr 25, 2012 12:57 AM EDT

Animated characters were created to contribute to reducing urban youth violence based on community-based participatory research.

West Philadelphian residents and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center worked together to create Briana and Damon, digitally animated characters, to communicate anti-violence messages to teens.

"We learned from the community youth that digital animation speaks to this age group and in this community," said co-author Dr. Therese S. Richmond of the University of Pennsylvania. "our young participants told us, 'This is what we'll pay attention to. This is what will be cool.'"

Working with an animator, youth participants reviewed the storyboards and offered feedback. They worked on developing the characters, making them look and sound trendy and urban, said Richmond. The youth also discussed with the animator the types of violent acts that they've known peers to commit, such as shoplifting and damaging property.

Briana and Damon, voiced by the participating teens, debuted in January at a PCVPC community symposium with over 250 attendees.

Each of the five, one-minute videos has a single, distinct message: avoiding peer pressure, working hard, keep calm, finding a role model and deciding against retribution. 

Lead author Dr. Nicole Vaughn of Drexel University said, "Involving the community in sharing research results adds more time to the process, but we think the product is that much richer. The community receives the message well because their voices are reflected in it."

The authors reported their findings in the American Journal of Community Psychology this month and launched the Briana and Damon animated videos on the Facebook page. 

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