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ISPCC withdraws 'Headbomz' campaign ad from cinemas following worries it could upset children

The charity said it had consulted with over 150 children while developing the campaign.

Source: ISPCC Childline/YouTube

THE ISPCC HAS withdrawn an ad from cinemas for its new ‘Headbomz’ campaign encouraging children to talk more openly about their worries, after concerns were raised that it could be upsetting for children.

The Headbomz campaign was launched last month by children’s charity the ISPCC to encourage young children (specifically, ages 8-10) to use its Childline service.

Childline is a support service in which children can call, text or go online to confidentially talk to a charity representative.

The Headbomz campaign consists of an advertisement which was shown in cinemas, television and on YouTube.

The two-minute cartoon advertisement depicts children in a school setting, with a song played in the background.

The song encourages children to speak about what is bothering them, and shows the heads of children who don’t speak swelling up and exploding. The aim of the campaign is to communicate to children that “Talking makes us stronger”.

A number of children’s teachers, play therapists, parents and psychologists have called for the ISPCC to remove the ad, saying that they believe it could be “damaging to vulnerable children”.

A #stopheadbomz campaign was launched calling for the ISPCC to remove the advertisement.

“The #stopheadbomz campaign believes that the Headbomz ad is actually creating fear amongst children and having the opposite effect to that intended,” the campaign said in a statement.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie the ISPCC defended the Headbomz campaign, saying that it had consulted over 150 children aged 8-10 while developing it. The charity said received positive feedback from children since the campaign’s launch.

However, the charity also said that it received some feedback from people “who believe the campaign could worry and upset some children”.

It said that as a result it had withdrawn the advertisement from cinemas.

“This decision was taken given that the cinema viewing experience is completely different to the in-home experience,” a spokesperson said.

“The impact of the big screen and overall environment will impact children in different ways.

This could mean that some children won’t have the opportunity to discuss what they have seen in the moment due to the cinema environment.

The charity also said that it had added an advisory note to the pack given to teachers which advises them to watch guidance in relation to using the Headbomz resource.

The advertisement has been viewed over 280,000 times on YouTube since it was uploaded on 12 May.

The ISPCC said that the campaign had resulted in an increase in calls to Childline.

“We have heard directly from many children that it has helped them to understand why talking is so important,” a spokesperson said.

The advertisement was made in partnership with the Vodafone Ireland Foundation.

Any child can contact Childline, 24-hours a day on 1800 66 66 66

With reporting from Órla Ryan

Read: ‘Christmas should mean safety and happiness’: Over 1,000 contacted Childline yesterday

Read: ‘Children are treated like human trash’: The systematic failings in Ireland’s child protection system

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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