Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Given increased exposure of youth to media images about substance use, media literacy education (MLE) is an important prevention strategy. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended reducing exposure of children to substance-related content in media and incorporating MLE into all substance abuse prevention programs. Media Detective Family (MDF) is a web-based MLE, substance use prevention program designed for parents and their elementary school-aged children to complete together. MDF was designed to reduce health disparities by overcoming barriers to prevention efforts in rural communities (e.g., cost, distance, and stigma associated with in-person preventive interventions). The core program provides families with media literacy and media mediation skills through completing an interactive software application that can be accessed either through a computer Internet browser or a downloadable tablet application. MDF also includes a downloadable smartphone application (Cold Case Files) that provides MLE extension activities that can be completed after finishing the core MDF program. Parent-child pairs were recruited from rural U.S. counties (N = 83) to participate in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of MDF to examine the effectiveness of the program for positively impacting parent and child outcomes. Parents and their 3rd-5th grade child completed a pretest questionnaire. Then, intervention group families (n= 47) received access to MDF and Cold Case Files, and control group families (n=36) received access to a family-oriented computer game with no MLE or substance abuse prevention content (i.e., Family Game Night). After completing the assigned program, families took a posttest questionnaire and three months later, a follow-up questionnaire. Child and parent outcomes were analyzed through conditional growth curve modeling. Participation in MDF led to a statistically significant reduction in current youth substance use over time as compared to youth in the comparison condition (b = -.102 (.043), t = -2.29, p=.029, d = -.80). Parents in the intervention group gave highly positive ratings and indicated an increased readiness to engage in behaviors related to media literacy with their children after participation. This is the first study to our knowledge that demonstrates a reduction in children’s substance use behaviors as a result of participating in a MLE program. The findings from this study suggests that MDF may serve as both a universal and a targeted, family-based prevention program that has great potential for contributing to reductions in health disparities in rural children by helping parents to support their children in making healthier, more informed decisions about substance use.