Purpose: To develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a web-based, media literacy education, substance use prevention program for use by families of elementary school-aged children

A Family using Media Literacy


Media Detective Family


The objective of this project was to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a web-based media literacy education, substance use preventive intervention program, Media Detective Family, for use with parents and their elementary school children.

The decision to create the program as a web-based program was to provide a method for overcoming barriers to prevention efforts that are frequently encountered in rural communities. MDF provides families with media literacy and media mediation skills through an interactive software application.

Benefits include increased parental awareness of the importance of media literacy education, improvements in parents’ and children’s critical thinking skills, improvements in parent-child communication about substances and the media, and an increase in the frequency of rural families receiving evidence-based prevention programming. A randomized controlled trial evaluation of the program revealed that children whose families used Media Detective Family reported a significant reduction in their use of substances over time compared to children in the control group. This research supports the use of an online family-based program with a media literacy education approach for reducing children’s substance use behaviors.



Scull, T.M. & Kupersmidt, J.B., & Weatherholt, T. (2016, May). Reducing health disparities in rural communities through an interactive, web-based family media literacy education program for substance abuse prevention. Poster presented at the Society for Prevention Research, San Francisco, CA.

Scull, T.M. (2014). Challenges and strategies for evaluating prevention programming in rural areas.  Presentation at the 16th Annual NIH SBIR/STTR Conference, Albuquerque, NM.



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