Purpose: The purpose of the R21 grant was to develop and evaluate the efficacy of Media Aware (for Young Adults), a web-based, sexual and relationship health education program that uses a media literacy education approach. The purpose of the R01 is to identify the mechanisms underlying the effects of the program on sexual and relationship health outcomes of young adults attending community college; to assess the longer-term efficacy of the program; and to gather information to inform strategies to enhance and support program implementation at community colleges.

Teenage girl online


irt AWARE for Teens with FASD


Young adults (ages 18-19) attending community college are an underserved and at-risk population in terms of their sexual and relationship health.

College students engage in risky sexual behaviors (e.g., low rates of condom use, multiple sexual partners) that put them at risk for unintended pregnancies and STIs. Despite the fact that community college students make up almost half of the college population, very little research has focused on this group. Our team aims to enhance the sexual and relationship health of community college students by helping to identify successful methods of health promotion in young adults and informing strategies to enhance evidence-based health program implementation at community colleges.

Young adults are avid media consumers. Media messages often promote or glamorize unhealthy sexual and romantic relationships and are less likely to provide relevant health information. Research has shown that sexual media exposure can negatively impact health outcomes. Media literacy education (MLE) focuses on enhancing critical thinking about media messages related to health behaviors as well as providing missing information about health that is frequently left out of media messages.

Media Aware (for Young Adults) was developed as a web-based program which uses a media literacy education approach to improve young adults’ sexual and relationship health. In a short-term evaluation with young adults attending community college, Media Aware was found to have a positive impact on the sexual and relationship health of students. Thus, the aims of the currently funded research is to replicate the positive findings of the short-term evaluation of Media Aware, extend this work to examine whether the positive impact of this program on the sexual and relationship health of community college students is sustained over time, and explore the mechanisms of change for MLE. An additional aim of this project is to investigate the barriers to adoption, implementation, and scalability of evidence-based sexual and relationship health programs in community college settings.



Scull, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Keefe, E. (2016, October). A web-based media literacy education sexual health program for older adolescents. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Child Development Special Topics Meeting: Technology and Media in Children’s Development, Irvine, CA.

Scull, T., Keefe, E., & Malik, C. (2016, May) Meeting the needs of older adolescents: Relationship and sexual health promotion using media literacy education. Breakout session presented at the SHIFT NC Statewide Conference, Durham, NC.



Don't Miss the Latest News about our Research and Products

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Below, select which newsletters you would like to receive: