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Social Media Campaign Promotes Prom Season Safety in Berkshires

Pittsfield Prevention Partnership and Students Against Destructive Decisions

A campaign aimed at parents and teenagers to encourage a safe prom season kicks off today in the Berkshires and online.

The three-week Safe Prom Berkshire County campaign is a project of the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership and the Berkshire Family Focus. With information passed on to teens and parents through community businesses and partners, and an online social media strategy, the campaign hopes to encourage safe behavior and prevent automobile accidents.

The CDC reports that teen drunk driving is the leading cause of death for teens, and Students Against Destructive Decisions says a high percentage of those deaths occur during the prom season.

The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, a coalition that involves local businesses, law enforcement, community focused organizations, and others, has been working in local high schools on a campaign aimed at changing social norms to reduce teen substance abuse.

Paul McNeil of the PPP said that information using data collected through a social norms assessment survey in 2012 is given to students in the lead up to prom season.

McNeil added that the PPP has used social media to provide information, and that the approach online can reach a wider audience than students at local schools.

The Berkshire Family Focus however, is taking the message countywide. Kelly Bevin McIlquham, founder of Berkshire Family Focus, said that social media has an edge over the typical prom season safety meeting or school assembly.

McIlquham said that popular social media platforms like Instagram will also be used, in addition to Twitter and Facebook to involve the students and parents themselves in the conversation promoting safety on prom night.

Some community businesses have already become involved in the Safe Prom Berkshire County campaign by displaying posters and other materials featuring some of the social norms statistics collected by the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership. One such business is  Deidre’s Prom Central, a store that rents and sells dresses and tuxedos on North Street in Pittsfield.

Joe Torra, co-owner of Deidre’s, said that beyond having the information on hand, encouraging students to stay safe on prom night is “part of the deal” when a dress is purchased.

The Safe Prom Berkshire County campaign will run until June 7th, one day after the last high school prom in the Berkshires.

Some of the tags used in the campaign include:

Remember dancing with ur best friends, boy/girlfriend and having a good time with ur classmates, not losing them #SafePromBerkshireCounty

Alcohol use increases risky behaviors —physical/emotional violence, sexual mistakes or misjudgments — to name a few #SafePromBerkshireCounty

Do you know where your kids are (pre- & post-prom)? #talkaboutpromnight #SafePromBerkshireCounty

97% of Pittsfield teens have a strategy to peer pressure to drink #partysober #alcohol free #substancefree #SafePromBerkshireCounty

98% of Pittsfield parents say when teens aren’t home they know exactly where they are & who they’re with #talkprom #SafePromBerkshireCounty

Don’t drink because you think you have to to have a good time at the prom! #SafePromBerkshireCounty

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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