Social & Theatre. Body and Identity Education in Sexting Prevention
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This article introduces and discusses how social theatre can be used in preventive healthcare in a new methodological framework including peer & media education and digital literacy. The essay begins at the gap between the new risks affecting adolescent behaviour (new addictions, gambling and online pornography) and health services’ strategies for preventing them. While youngsters are online, chatting and dating, health professionals are ready in their offices: service is not matched to need. They must provide a new methodological framework for prevention that is underpinned by an understanding of youngsters’ practices and can make sense of what they do on social-networking sites and digital media in their daily lives. Peer & media education – originating in a meeting between peer education and media education – seeks to do just this. Peer education traditionally entails training young people to educate their peers. Media education, meanwhile, aims to develop critical thinking to enable youngsters to become aware of media messages and to produce and publish their content responsibly. The result is a joint preventive and educational framework in which critical thinking is developed and fostered through peer activity. In collaboration with partners from health prevention (Contorno Viola), teen education (Informagiovani) and social theatre (Industria Scenica), CREMIT recently ran an action-research project on sexting prevention (Image.me). It was a good opportunity to test the peer & media methodology. Social theatre was conceived of (and used) in two ways. First, it provided a form of social care and web risk prevention. The methodology entailed choosing the best performing arts for the context, focusing on the project’s target audience, and trying to imagine how to tackle sexting effectively. The result was a new mascot, OPS!, a puppet that the researchers used to meet youngsters in schools, discos and other informal contexts. OPS! was also involved in peer video making, as the young people created videos aimed at preventing sexting in their own communities. The second way in which social theatre was used was in communicating the research data at the project’s conclusion. A dramaturgical framework was devised for commenting on the data and facilitating understanding and participation. These activities are part of a wider research project on theatre and scientific communication at the Università Cattolica, Milan, run by Claudio Bernardi and Pier Cesare Rivoltella’s research groups.
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