BEVERLY — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was at the YMCA of the North Shore Thursday to introduce a new state social media-driven campaign meant to boost healthy relationships among smartphone toting kids.

The RESPECTfully public awareness campaign was paid for with $500,000 in the fiscal 2019 state budget. It's a collaboration between the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and the state Department of Public Health.

RESPECTfully, which launched May 26 on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, aims to teach kids whose social lives revolve around social media the value of trust, mutual respect, honesty, compromise and other healthy ways of interacting through a series of short videos.

Polito, who came to the Y seeking feedback from those officials working with kids, said this was the state's first youth-informed and focused public awareness campaign, one related to preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, in 20 years. 

In a roundtable discussion, Polito introduced the campaign alongside Kelly Dwyer, the executive director of the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which Polito chairs. 

"We have summertime, so that is part of the reason why I'm here today is to talk about how you can use this campaign as a tool with the youth groups that you will be hosting and interacting with over the course of the summer," Polito said. 

The campaign will relaunch in the fall to spread awareness in the schools and among students and caregivers.

One of the things that Polito said she has heard going around the state over the past year was the need to promote conversations around healthy relationships among kids ages 12 to 18.

"This has kind of evolved because of that," Polito said pointing to a smartphone on a table. "Technology has changed a lot of things." It's both a blessing, in that Polito can stay in touch with her teenage kids, but it's also a curse in that parents do not know what kinds of information their kids are sharing.

Using feedback from young people, Polito said they found kids like to communicate in short bursts. So, the campaign came up with short, animated clips with a positive message that are 20 to 30 seconds long.

The clips touch on themes such as drama (venting in a group text), name calling (making fun of someone during class), or constantly checking up on someone in an unhealthy way, the latter being a drawback of the capabilities of some social media apps. 

Dwyer said the videos, which can be found at mass.gov/respectfully, have had 5,000 unique views in just a week and a half. 

Merri-Lynn Lathrop, camp and aquatic operations director of the YMCA of the North Shore, said the campaign will provide a useful resource for the Y.

"It's the same message we are trying to get out there," said Lathrop. She said a segment of their camp program is dedicated to social media and cyber safety.

Chris Lovasco, CEO of the YMCA of the North Shore, suggested that the campaign eventually tackle the issue of kids who feel left out. 

Polito and Y officials also weighed the best way to get the campaign out to kids.

"If you are going to get them, they have to be engaged," Lovasco said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews. 

Recommended for you