Research Research

The following two abstracts describe research associated with the Media Ready middle school media literacy substance abuse prevention program.

  1. Barrett., T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., Benson, J.W., & Elmore, K.C. (2007). Evaluation of the North Carolina Middle School, Media Literacy, Substance Abuse Prevention Project. Poster presented at the Alliance for a Media Literate America meeting, St. Louis, MO.

  2. A randomized controlled trial of a middle school substance abuse prevention program (N=214 intervention; N=198 control) revealed that the brief intervention increased students' media deconstruction skills; decreased boys' intentions to use alcohol in the future; and was found to be equally effective in all grade levels. These findings suggest that media literacy training is an effective substance abuse prevention method.

  3. Barrett, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., Benson, J.W., & Elmore, K.C. (under review). Exploration of mediators and moderators of a media literacy, substance abuse prevention program for middle school students. Poster submitted for presentation at the Society for Research on Adolescence Conference, Chicago, IL.

  4. The current study presents results of the randomized controlled trial of an evaluation of a 10-session media literacy, substance abuse prevention program for use with middle school children.  The prevention program is based upon the Message Interpretation Processing Model developed by Austin &amp Johnson (1997) and is designed to teach critical thinking skills to students surrounding pro-drug media messages to make them less susceptible to media persuasion.

    The specific goals of the program were to:
    1. increase student recognition that alcohol and tobacco advertisements are biased messages designed to persuade viewers to use tobacco and alcohol products,
    2. increase students' ability to identify specific persuasive strategies used by alcohol and tobacco advertisers,
    3. decrease students' positive and increase negative attitudes and beliefs about tobacco and alcohol use, and
    4. decrease students' current use and future intention to use alcohol and tobacco.

    Language Arts and Health Education classes in five Southeastern middle schools (6th - 8th grades) were assigned to curriculum delivery (N=214) and wait list control conditions (N=198).   Teachers in the intervention group participated in eight hours of training on an orientation to media literacy; the relation between media literacy and substance abuse prevention; and the middle school program.  Teachers also completed questionnaires both before and after receiving training to assess both increases in knowledge, changes in attitudes, and consumer satisfaction with the program.  Students who received active parental consent completed self-report questionnaires both before and after receiving the curriculum.  Students in the wait-list control group also completed two questionnaires administered at the same interval as the students in the intervention group.  Teachers completed program implementation measures and attendance records after teaching each of the ten lessons in order to track dosage received by each student; fidelity of implementation; and to provide feedback to the curriculum development team about ease of teaching, interest, and suggestions regarding each part of each lesson.  Trained adult staff members also observed twenty percent of each teacher's curriculum delivery in order to obtain interrater reliability on program implementation measures.

    The middle school program successfully achieved change in several of the main goals of the program.  Hierarchical linear model analyses were used to investigate differences in students' posttest scores using condition (intervention/control), sex (male/female), grade (6th/7th/8th), and the interaction of condition and sex as independent variables.  SAS PROC MIXED was used to account for within-classroom heterogeneity, with teacher serving as the repeated variable.  These analyses revealed that this brief intervention produced significant change in the desired direction for most objectives. 

    As compared to the students in the control group, students who received the Media Ready program:

    • were better able to deconstruct alcohol and tobacco advertisements;
    • were more skeptical about media messages;
    • had a better understanding of ad attractiveness;
    • and, importantly, boys who received the intervention reported less intention to use alcohol in the future.

    Results from the mediator analyses did not reveal any of the message interpretation processing constructs to be mediators of the program's influence on boys' intentions to use alcohol.  Notably, the program was found to be equally effective in all grade levels and in both Language Arts and Health Education classes.  In addition, there was little variability found across participating teachers in their implementation of the program.  The high dosage and fidelity to the program resulted in the fact that students' outcomes did not vary as a result of teachers' fidelity in teaching the program.

    These findings contribute to a growing literature suggesting that media literacy education programs that are theoretically grounded and research-based are a valuable strategy for use in school-based, substance abuse prevention efforts, particularly for middle school boys. It remains to be seen if this type of program will have similar preventive effects for middle school girls as their interest in experimenting with substances increases in the years after middle school.