Purpose: To develop and evaluate a web-based, sexual and relationship health education program for high school students using a media literacy education approach

Parent Using Computer


Media Aware Parent


The rates of early and risky sexual behaviors of adolescents and the glamorization of risky sexual behavior in media suggest the need for new evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents.

Parents serve as major socialization agents for their teens, and they can help improve their children’s outcomes through effective parent-child communication about sexual health topics and media influences. Unfortunately, many parents do not feel comfortable talking about sex or contraception with their children. Furthermore, parents did not necessarily receive formal media literacy education and could benefit from skills development themselves.

This project developed Media Aware Parent (MAP), a web application intervention designed to provide parents with media mediation skills, sexual health knowledge, and practice in parent-adolescent communication.

Findings from a feasibility study revealed that parents who used the program discussed more new sexual health topics with their child and also had stronger beliefs in the importance of parent-adolescent communication about sexual health that parents who did not use the program. A larger RCT evaluation found that the program improved parent–adolescent communication quality as rated by both parents and youth. Youth were more likely to understand that their parent did not want them to have sex at this early age, and they reported more agency over hook-ups, more positive attitudes about sexual health communication and contraception/protection, and more self-efficacy to use contraception/protection, if they decide to have sexual activity. These research studies provide evidence that Media Aware Parent is an effective strategy to enhance parent–adolescent communication and positively impact adolescents’ sexual health outcomes.



Hurst, J. L., Scull, T., & Dodson, C. (2022, November). Modeling Dyadic Effects in the Associations Between Importance and Comfort of Parent-Adolescent Sexual Health Communication: An APIM Approach. Brief report to be presented at the Scientific Study of Sexuality Conference, Vancouver, Canada.

Scull, T.M., Keefe, E., & Malik, C.V.  (2017, May). The birds, the bees, and Kim Kardashian:  Engaging and equipping parents to navigate sex and media with adolescents. Workshop presented at the SHIFT NC Annual Conference: Greensboro, NC.



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