January 31, 2023, Durham, NC – Media Aware Parent, one of iRT’s self-paced, online prevention programs, is designed to equip parents of teens with the skills they need to engage in high-quality conversations with their children about sexual and relationship health, teach their children to think critically about media messages, and create effective family rules around media use. A previous paper published by Dr. Tracy Scull and her colleagues at iRT reported on the impact of the program after access to it for one month. At that point in time, the Media Aware Parent program improved parents-adolescent communication, and parents and their children thought more critically about media messages. In addition, the program resulted in teens’ having more positive sexual health beliefs.

In order to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the program, iRT researchers examined if these findings were sustained six months after program completion. Drs. Christina Dodson, Tracy Scull, and Alexander M. Schoemann published the study, “A Six-Month Outcome Evaluation of Media Aware Parent, a Parent-Based Media Mediation and Sexual Health Communication Program to Promote Adolescent Sexual Health,” in the Journal of Health Communication.

According to data collected from over 300 families participating in the Media Aware Parent evaluation study, several of the positive effects of Media Aware Parent that were seen at one month were sustained after six months. At both one-month posttest and six-month follow-up, parents reported thinking more critically about the media messages they consume, increasing their beliefs that sexually-themed alcohol advertisements are missing important information. The program’s positive effect on children’s awareness of their family’s rules regarding their own media consumption habits was also sustained after six months. At six months, two new positive outcomes emerged that were not found after one month of usage, namely, parents reported an increase in their restriction of their teen’s media usage and teens reported that their parents engaged in more supportive parenting. However, some of the positive effects of the program at one month had diminished by six months post-intervention, suggesting that implementing program boosters could be beneficial to sustain and enhance the effects of Media Aware Parent over time and encourage parents to continue having high quality conversations with their teens about sex, relationships, and media.

Parent-teen communication about sexual health and media is integral to healthy adolescent development, but few resources are available to help parents initiate and conduct these conversations. Building upon this work with teenagers, researchers at iRT are extending their work down for parents of a younger age group. In a new grant award, Drs. Scull and Dodson are working on the development of the Media Aware Parent – Tween program, which will also be a web-based program. The Tween program will be designed to help parents of “tweens” about developmentally appropriate topics such as the onset of puberty, body image, romantic relationships, sexuality, and media use. If you are interested in learning more about the Media Aware Parent program, visit https://mediaawareparent.com/ or read the full article about the program here.