November 17, 2023, Durham, NC – In an increasingly digital world, youth and adults are consistently exposed to a barrage of media messages. Some media messages include false or misleading information that may have a powerful influence on the beliefs and behaviors of consumers, particularly youth and young adults. Media literacy education is a growing, promising approach to helping youth and young adults become more active, rather than passive, consumers of media, so they can protect themselves from the potentially harmful impacts of exposure to misleading media messages on their beliefs and behaviors. Many media literacy education-based programs, such as those developed by iRT, target health-related outcomes and teach youth and young adults about media and how media messages can influence behavior, and media literacy skills to be able to critically evaluate media messages. Taken together, becoming media literate can help achieve the goal of limiting the negative influence that media consumption may have on health and well-being. An increasing amount of research shows that media literacy education-based interventions can improve cognitions and behaviors related to substance use, sexual health, and eating disorders; however, more research is needed in the field of media literacy education to better understanding the effectiveness of these types of programs for health promotion and disease prevention.
Though many evaluations of media literacy education programs for health promotion have examined the impacts of program use on participants’ health-related outcomes, few have examined the impacts of program use on media literacy skills acquisition and cognitions. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions about how media literacy education strategies influence program effectiveness. In addition, media literacy has been defined and measured inconsistently across program evaluations. iRT Research Scientists Drs. Christina Dodson, Janis Kupersmidt, and Tracy Scull co-authored a chapter in the soon-to-be-published Media Literacy and Media Education Research Methods: A Handbook to discuss these barriers to media literacy education research as well as to outline a conceptual framework and measures for quantitatively assessing media literacy in future evaluations of the effectiveness of media literacy education programs .
The chapter, entitled “Quantitative Methods for Assessing Media Literacy in Evaluations of Health Promotion Intervention Programs Using Media Literacy Education,” provides an overview of theoretical frameworks that have previously been used to inform the development of media literacy education programs for health promotion as well as to select media literacy measures to use in studies of program effectiveness. To address the need for a set of standardized media literacy measures for program evaluations, the chapter describes the measurement of specific cognitions and skills that can be directly impacted by media literacy education and proposes a conceptual framework for categorizing these quantitative measures, which can be replicated for future program evaluations. The proposed framework was developed based upon theoretical approaches previously used in the development of educational programs by iRT and evaluations of media literacy education programs for health promotion conducted by iRT, as well as other studies examining the impact of media literacy education programs on substance use, sexual health, and eating disorders. Drs. Dodson, Kupersmidt, and Scull conclude the chapter with a discussion of the importance of utilizing quantitative methods for assessing media literacy in program evaluations to expand the field of media literacy’s understanding of the role of these programs in the development of media literacy skills and cognitions, and therefore the health and wellbeing, of program participants.
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