October 25, 2020

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Online firearms educational tool receives funding for development and implementation – News

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A $1.95 million grant will allow UAB researchers to develop an online tool to help...

A $1.95 million grant will allow UAB researchers to develop an online tool to help educate children on firearms safety.  

Mother an son using laptop at homeResearchers received a new grant to develop an online tool to educate children on firearms safety. Firearms injuries present a major pediatric public health challenge to our country, killing more than 800 children under the age of 15 annually and leading to lifelong disability among over 1,000 survivors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one-third of firearms injuries to children under age 15 are due to unintentional causes rather than suicide or homicide.

Researchers in the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences were awarded $1.95 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and evaluate ShootSafe, an innovative and educational website accessible by smartphone, tablet or computer that engages children to learn firearms safety.

“Our intention is to design a website that teaches children how to engage safely with firearms to reduce risk for unintentional pediatric firearms-related injuries and deaths,” said David Schwebel, Ph.D., director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab and principle investigator. “The website will deliver messages through the internet, a technological medium today’s children prefer learning in. It also will incorporate brief messaging to parents, who will absorb key lessons and reinforce them with their children.” 

ShootSafe extends existing programs to achieve three primary educational goals:

  • Teach children the knowledge and skills they need to hunt, shoot and use firearms safely;
  • Help children learn and hone the critical cognitive skills of impulse control and hypothetical thinking needed to use firearms safely; and
  • Alter children’s perceptions about their own vulnerability and susceptibility to firearms-related injuries, the severity of those injuries, and their perceived norms about peer behavior surrounding firearms use.

ShootSafe will accomplish these goals through a combination of interactive games and activities alongside powerful podcast videos. The videos will be impactful testimonials from actors about firearms injuries and deaths and from firearms safety experts who offer wisdom and experience.  

After the site has launched, investigators will evaluate the effectiveness of the website by looking at changes in children’s firearms knowledge, cognitive skills in impulse control and hypothetical thinking, perceptions about firearms safety, and simulated behavior when handling, storing and transporting firearms.  

“The program addresses a critical pediatric public health problem through an electronic platform that appeals to today’s children and innovative programming to deliver basic knowledge about firearms safety, hone relevant cognitive skills and alter perceptions about safety,” said Schwebel, who is also university professor in the UAB Department of Psychology. “If the study hypotheses prove true, we will be able to utilize the website and learning tool with a broader audience.”

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