HOUSTON, Texas (October 29, 2021) — The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (McCain Institute) is proud to wrap up a four-stop unveiling of its R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t billboard campaign across the state of Texas. These billboards are central to the McCain Institute’s R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t online safety campaign, and are expected to reach over 100 million Texans by the end of this year.
The four-day tour featured events and billboard unveilings in Laredo, Lubbock, Grand Prairie and Humble County, Texas. Speakers at each stop included representatives from local law enforcement agencies, members of Governor Abbott’s Child Sex Trafficking Team, representatives from the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas, as well as local community leaders and stakeholders.
“We know that not all parents may see our messages on social media or on our website. Billboards – like those you see across the state of Texas – are going to help get the R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t message in front of millions of additional people,” said Kelsey Syms, McCain Institute Combatting Human Trafficking Program Manager. “By incorporating a holistic outreach approach, we can begin to better prevent and respond to cases of online exploitation and enticement.”
“I don’t think parents realize what is out there on social media and what children actually have accesss to.” Says Lieutenant Leath McClure with the Lubbock Police Department. “I would encourage them to pay attention, check what they are doing, see what they are on, what they are looking at, check their history, be involved.”
The R.E.A.L Friends Don’t campaign arms parents and caregivers with simple, actionable tools to help kids navigate their online experiences and protect them from potentially harmful relationships or grooming. Through a partnership with the Office of Governor, the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas, and the McCain Institute, R.E.A.L. Friends Don’t has launched print and digital billboards across the state to educate Texans about online safety and ensure parents and caregivers have the resources they need to start the conversation with their children about staying safe online, as well as where to turn if something does go wrong. The billboards, with messages in both Spanish and English, will be broadcast throughout Texas now through the end of the year.