Purpose: To develop and evaluate a teacher-led comprehensive sexual health program for middle school students that uses a media literacy education approach

Middle school students with teacher


This research project involved the development and evaluation of a teacher-led media literacy education (MLE) program to promote sexual health among middle school students.

Phase I of this project included the development of a prototype of the program and conducting a study to access program feasibility and the potential for achieving positive student outcomes. Phase II of this project included revising and finalizing the program including the addition of two web-based modules to supplement the program, translating the in-person teacher training to a web-based teacher training, and conducting a RCT to evaluate program effectiveness.

Comprehensive sexual health education has been found to have a positive impact on adolescent sexual health outcomes, but most sexual health education curricula do not address the impact of media on sexual beliefs and behaviors. Exposure to unhealthy media messages that normalize or glorify risk behaviors is related to early and risky sexual behaviors in adolescence. Media literacy education can help students critically analyze media messages about sex and relationships and promote healthy beliefs and behaviors.

This project resulted in the creation of the first evidence-based MLE program for comprehensive sexual health education in middle school. Media Aware (for Middle School) is a school-based program that includes eight teacher-led lessons, each about 45 minutes long, and two web-based lessons that provide students with medically accurate sexual health knowledge about unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted inflections. In addition, this project resulted in an online training designed to increase fidelity of implementation.

Findings from the randomized controlled trial of the program provides support for the use of MLE with adolescents for sexual and relationship health promotion. The program positively impacted adolescents’ self-efficacy and intentions to use contraception, if they were to engage in sexual activity; positive attitudes, self-efficacy, and intentions to communicate about sexual health; and sexual health knowledge. Finally, the program reduced adolescents’ acceptance of dating violence and strict gender roles.



Scull, T. M., Kupersmidt, J. B., Malik, C. V., & Morgan-Lopez, A. A. (2018). Using media literacy education for adolescent sexual health promotion in middle school: Randomized control trial of Media Aware. Journal of Health Communication23(12), 1051-1063.

Scull, T. M., Malik, C. V., & Kupersmidt, J. B. (2018). Understanding the unique role of media message processing in predicting adolescent sexual behavior intentions in the USA. Journal of Children and Media12(3), 258-274.

Scull, T.M., Malik, C.V., Kupersmidt, J.B., & Moallem, M. (2016). Rethinking sexuality education:  A web-based solution. In Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2016 (pp. 2344-2348). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Scull, T. M., Malik, C. V., & Kupersmidt, J. B. (2014). A media literacy education approach to teaching adolescents comprehensive sexual health education. The Journal of Media Literacy Education6(1), 1.



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