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AmberWatch TV Dials In On Child Abuse, Cyberbullying

The AmberWatch Foundation amps up its fight against child abuse with a new interactive TV channel that will reach 3 million viewers.

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Call it kismet, coincidence, or something else. Today AmberWatch TV is launching, right on the heels of the Penn State alledged child sexual abuse case.

“One in four girls and one is six boys are sexually assaulted by the time they reach adulthood–and 37% have been cyberbullied,” says Keith Jarrett, founder of the AmberWatch Foundation, a Seal Beach, Calif., charity that combats child abduction and molestation through education. “Parents want solutions–not just what’s going on, but what they can do to prevent it.”

Today Jarrett’s fight ramps up a notch with the launch of the interactive AmberWatch TV Channel on Cablevision System Corp.’s iO TV (channel 625), a digital TV service that reaches 3 million viewers in the New York Tri-State area. The launch follows a midday celebrity fundraiser event at The Standard Hotel in New York, emceed by WCBS-TV anchor Chris Wragge. (One notable absentee: Foundation Youth Coalition chairperson Selena Gomez, given the ongoing press frenzy surrounding boyfriend Justin Bieber.)

“In the last seven years, I’ve watched the kid safety space go through a transformation,” says Jarrett. “As more kids have their own phones and computers, we’re moving into the dangers of the digital world–cyberstalkers, cyberbullying, and sexting. They can have direct communication [with potential predators] without any parental filter, compared to one landline in a house, which parents could monitor.”

The channel will offer over 70 different videos–some 15 seconds, others 15 minutes–of celebrities and public officials discussing how to recognize and react to dangerous situations, as well as interviews with predators and victims, AmberWatch-tested solutions and safety products, photo galleries with accompanying text, and behind-the-scenes footage of films covering related themes–some of which Cablevision will offer on-demand. The programming will be updated every two weeks and open to citizen contributors as well.

The channel’s interactive elements will enable viewers to pick the child safety information that suits their needs. Initially, viewers encounter a menu listing the different programming categories, which they choose by clicking a button on their remotes. That opens the category to another menu of options. A click-to-call feature will enable viewers to get more information, donate to the foundation, speak to a safety product specialist and, eventually, purchase those items. A modified version will be available on the AmberWatch TV website.

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Talks for the channel began in August, 2010, after an AmberWatch sponsor, Protext Mobility, connected the charity to a Cablevision contact. For the launch Cablevision offered a press release statement from media sales president and COO David Kline: “We are pleased to be the first cable provider to offer AmberWatch TV, bringing educational information that will help the communities we serve stay more informed about child safety.”

Eventually, Jarrett hopes to bring AmberWatch TV to other cable and satellite networks; add original talk, reality, scripted programming blocks; and ultimately spin off books, classes, and conferences about child safety.

“Right now, we’re trying to build a platform,” says Jarrett. “The goal of the channel is to be the resource where parents can go to learn everything from how their children can avoid sexual predators to how to put in baby seat correctly. Then we want to provide tool sets and resources.”

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.

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