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Young Children’s Perceptions of Fire-Safety Messages: Do Framing and Parental Mediation Matter?

Borzekowski, Dina EdD; Clearfield, Elizabeth MHS; Rimal, Rajiv PhD; Gielen, Andrea PhD

doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e31829afe6c
Original Articles

Media can deliver health and safety messages promoting child health and injury prevention. This study examined the effects of message framing and parental mediation on children’s perceptions of fire-safety messages. Using a 2 × 3 randomized experimental design, this study considered both message framing (gain or loss) and parental mediation (no mediation/control, unscripted, or scripted) with 320 children who were 4 and 5 years of age. Children saw two messages (burn and smoke inhalation) embedded in a cartoon. Afterward, researchers assessed children’s recall, understanding, and perceptions of self-efficacy and social norms. Children were more likely to recall the safety messages if they were older (burn: adjusted odds ration [AOR] = 2.74 and smoke: AOR = 2.58), and could recall the smoke inhalation message if they had unscripted mediation (AOR = 3.16). Message understanding was poor, with only about 50% of children choosing a correct behavior in a similar scenario. For the burn message, correct understanding was associated with gain-framing and scripted mediation (AOR = 3.22 and 5.77, respectively). Only the scripted mediation group was significantly associated with an increase in perceived social norms (burn: coefficient =.37 and smoke: coefficient =.55; P <.001. Gain-framing was associated with increased odds of self-efficacy for both behaviors (burn: AOR = 1.77 and smoke: AOR = 1.77). Messages that show positive outcomes combined with scripted parental mediation appear most effective in communicating safety behaviors, but the overall effectiveness of video-based messages to teach children safety behaviors needs to be enhanced.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

Address correspondence to Dina Borzekowski, EdD, 2364 Building 255, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742.

© 2014 The American Burn Association