Durham, NC (September 10, 2014)—A research article written by scientists at innovation Research & Training (iRT) has been listed by The Journal of Media Literacy Education as one of the top 10 most popular pages viewed in its June issue.

The Journal of Media Literacy Education is an online, open-access, peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal that supports the development of research, scholarship and the pedagogy of media literacy education. The paper, A Media Literacy Education Approach to Teaching Adolescents Comprehensive Sexual Health Education, written by iRT scientists Tracy Scull, Christina Malik, and Janis Kupersmidt, outlines the effects of a media literacy education program on influencing adolescents’ sexual health.

The journal based the top 10 list on the average number of full-text downloads per day since the paper was posted. iRT’s article ranked second on the list.

“We are so pleased that there is an audience eager to learn about the research that we are conducting on sexual health and media literacy education,” said Dr. Scull, research scientist at iRT. “Our study provides preliminary evidence that by learning how media messages are created and understanding the hidden messages found within them, young people will be better equipped to analyze the veracity of those messages and make healthier lifestyle choices.”

The researchers, concerned about the influence of media on adolescents’ health decision-making, sought to test the feasibility of a new, teacher-led program called Media Aware—Sexual Health (MASH), which incorporates comprehensive sex education for young adolescents in the context of media literacy education. MASH was designed to provide students’ with accurate sexual health information and teach them how to apply that information to critically analyze media messages that contain information about sex or romantic relationships. Researchers found that after the program, teens were more likely to have the intention to use condoms if sex were to occur and talk to partners, parents, or medical professionals prior to sex.

Students in the program examine many types of media and learn that these messages do not communicate healthy information about sexual behavior. For example, romance is often represented by a lack of commitment and a rush to sex, without discussion about contraception. The MASH program helps to address these gaps and biases in the media by teaching students skills about how to analyze what they see and hear. In addition, students are taught skills for communicating with parents, partners, and medical professionals about sex prior to engaging in sexual behavior. After completing the program, teens became better critical thinkers about the media and, in fact, were less likely to accept that the media reflected reality. These are important skills for making healthier and safer decisions, particularly about when, whether, and how to engage in sexual behavior. Overall, the results suggest that media literacy education has the potential for positively influencing sexual health decisions.

“The positive effects of media literacy education add to a growing body of research supporting the efficacy of media literacy education in promoting healthy behaviors in adolescents,” said Dr. Kupersmidt. “These findings are important because they extend iRT’s work on using media literacy education as an approach for preventing substance abuse to being an effective method for promoting sexual health.”

To review the article in its entirety, please visit www.digitalcommons.uri.edu/jmle/vol6/iss1/1/.

Currently, iRT is conducting a larger evaluation of the MASH program with seventh and eighth grade teachers and their students. The study seeks to understand whether media literacy education can have a positive effect on children’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior about sex. For more information on the study, please visit www.mash.irtinc.us.

# # # #

About innovation Research & Training  innovation Research & Training (iRT) is a behavioral sciences research company committed to identifying and solving significant real-world problems facing children, families, communities, and organizations. By using evidence-based and culturally sensitive methods, iRT researchers investigate, develop, and evaluate behavioral, educational, psychological, social, and community assessment, prevention and treatment programs and services. iRT’s staff includes experts in basic and applied research in a variety of areas, including substance abuse prevention and treatment, youth mentoring, social and emotional development, mindfulness education, media literacy education, pregnancy prevention and sexual health, child and adolescent mental health, adult and juvenile justice programs, drug courts, drugged driving, tobacco use and underage drinking. For more information about iRT, visit www.irtinc.us.

Media Contact:

Yvette D. Ruffin, APRDirector, Marketing and CommunicationsInnovation Research & Training919-493-7700yruffin@irtinc.us