Media Ready is an engaging, new research-based media literacy program for 6th to 8th grade students, designed to delay or prevent the onset of substance use, particularly with respect to underage drinking.
Media Ready is a research-based media literacy program for 6th to 8th grade students, designed to delay or prevent the onset of substance use, particularly with respect to underage drinking.
Through ten lessons of interactive activities, hands-on practice, and group work, students discover the media world around them and develop skills to better understand the messages that are being sent to them. It is intended that they then apply these skills in everyday life to be able to stop, think, and question before accepting media messages.
It is desired that students will become more active consumers who will make informed choices.
- Encourage healthy cognitions about abstinence from alcohol use.
- Enhance students’ ability to apply critical thinking skills to interpreting media messages, in general, and alcohol media messages, in particular.
- Delay or prevent the onset of underage alcohol use.
- Alcohol and tobacco use prevention program based on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study
- Teaches critical thinking skills
- Based on state-of-the-art scientific research and theory on substance abuse prevention and media literacy
- Research-based program using established models of decision-making and research on how children interpret media messages
- Easy implementation for teachers with inclusive materials and teacher training package
- All-inclusive kit includes scripted lesson plans, handouts and materials
- Comprehensive training for teachers/facilitators includes introduction to background research and theoretical model
- Curriculum adaptable to a variety of classroom settings, teaching styles, and student skill levels
- Includes fun homework and extension assignments designed to further students’ understanding of media literacy and provide additional opportunities to practice newly learned concepts
- Promising preventive intervention strategy for delaying or preventing the onset of underage drinking and tobacco use
- Grades 6 – 8
- 10 class sessions
- Approximately 45 minute class sessions
- Comprehensive, easy-to-use teacher’s manual
- Templates of handouts and student worksheets
- Accompanying media examples and resources
“[Media Ready] is effective in reducing underage drinking because it was developed by leading child clinical and developmental psychologists who are also substance abuse prevention scientists and experienced educators…This curriculum will empower middle school students across the state to become media savvy consumers whose opinions and decisions about alcohol are less likely to be influenced by advertisements.”
— First Lady Mary Easley, Press Release, North Carolina Office of the Governor, September 12, 2007
The Media Ready program is an evidence-based program because:
- The Media Ready program is based on extensive research on how adolescents interpret media messages and how these interpretations result in the decision to use or not to use alcohol and tobacco products.
- The effectiveness of the Media Ready program was evaluated in a randomized controlled study which is the most rigorous type of research design for evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention program.
- The program results show significant:
- Improvement in critical thinking skills about media messages;
- Reduction in boys’ intent to use alcohol products; and
- Reduction in intent to use tobacco products.
- The program was equally effective in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades
- The program was equally effective in Language Arts and Health Education classes.
- Students evaluated the curriculum very positively; they liked learning about media literacy.
- Teachers also evaluated the curriculum very positively; they liked teaching media literacy
Recent research suggests that the media is becoming an increasingly important influence in the lives of young people. A recent study published by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation (Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005) reports that the U.S. children, 8-18 years of age, spend an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes per day engaged in media-related activities such as watching television, listening to music, or playing video games. This number is likely to increase as new developments are made in the field of media technology.
The following information outlines the pervasiveness of alcohol advertising and the use of media literacy as a substance abuse intervention.
Alcohol Advertising and Youth
“Research clearly indicates that, in addition to parents and peers, alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on youth decisions to drink…”
(from The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University’s “Alcohol Advertising and Youth”)
Media Literacy as a Substance Use Intervention
Pro-alcohol messages are pervasive in the media. According to the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY, 2006), children view between 10% and 33% more advertisements for various types of alcohol in magazines than adults. In addition, a report by the Federal Trade Commission found that, in 2004, children 2-20 years of age saw an average of 196.6 television advertisements for alcohol per year. Sadly, despite public concern over the prevalence of alcohol advertising featured during shows with primarily underage audiences, this number indicates an increase of 33% in the number of such advertisements viewed by children since 2001 (Ippolito, 2005, as found in CAMY, 2006). Children see advertisements for alcohol in nearly all forms of media, not just television.
Increasingly, concern over the amount of alcohol advertising viewed by children has prompted research examining the link between media exposure and substance use. A recent longitudinal study (Ellickson, Collins, Hambarsoomians, & McCaffrey, 2005) found that middle school students who reported greater exposure to alcohol advertising were more likely to drink alcohol in high school than those who reported less exposure. Since children spend so much of their time engaged with the media, which is laden with pro-alcohol messages, interventions targeted at equipping youth with the tools to resist the persuasive content of media messages is a necessary step in addressing the problem of underage drinking.
The following sections describe media literacy and the use of media literacy education as an approach to substance use prevention:
What is media literacy education?
Media Literacy is defined as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and produce communication in a variety of forms – or – Media Literacy is the ability to ask questions about what a person watches, sees and reads.
Media Literacy education programs can teach students to:
- Develop critical thinking skills they can use to intelligently navigate the media and filter the hundreds of media messages they receive every day.
- Enhance their understanding of media message production processes, the commercial sources and beneficiaries of advertising, the ideology of messages contained in commercial and news media, and the techniques advertisers use to persuade viewers.
- Recognize the persuasive intent of advertising, assess the realism of media portrayals, and question societal norms regarding behaviors such as substance use.
Media literacy education as an approach to substance use prevention
Given the importance of media influence in the lives of young people, a relatively new but promising approach to substance abuse prevention has been examined in several studies (DeBenedittis, Loughery, McCannon, & Goldsborough, 2000; Austin & Johnson, 1997a, 1997b; Slater, Rouner, Murphy, Beauvais, Van Leuven, & Domenech-Rodriquez, 1996). This new approach focuses primarily on the powerful role of the media as an influence on children’s use of alcohol and other drugs.
Recent findings suggest that media literacy is a promising approach to school-based substance abuse intervention. Among the various outcomes associated with media literacy training are:
- Increased media skepticism (Kupersmidt, Barrett, Elmore, & Benson, 2007)
- Increased perceived efficacy in resisting pro-drug media messages (Austin, Pinkleton, Hust, & Cohen, 2005)
- Greater ability to produce counter-arguments to beer advertisements (Slater, et al., 1996)
- Increased beliefs that smoking and drinking are “wrong” for teens (Kupersmidt, Feagans, Eisen, & Hicks, 2005)
- Reduced middle school boys’ intentions to use alcohol and tobacco in the future(Kupersmidt, Feagans, Eisen, & Hicks, 2005; Barrett, Kupersmidt, Benson, & Elmore, 2007)
Despite such promising preliminary results, there is a shortage of theoretically driven and empirically tested curricula currently available. The NC DMHDDSAS contracted with innovation Research and Training to create an evidence-based substance abuse prevention program for use by North Carolina middle school teachers. The result is the Media Ready program.
Austin, E.W., & Johnson, K.K. (1997a). Effects of general and alcohol-specific media literacy training on children’s decision making about alcohol. Journal of Health Communication, 2(1), 17-42.
Austin, E.W., & Johnson, K.K. (1997b). Immediate and delayed effects of media literacy training on third grader’s decision making for alcohol. Health Communication, 9(4), 323-349.
Austin, E. W., Pinkleton, B. E., Hust, S. J. T., & Cohen, M. (2005). Evaluation of an American Legacy Foundation/Washington State Department of Health media literacy pilot study. Health Communication, 18(1), 75.
Barrett, T.M., Kupersmidt, J.B., Benson, J.W., & Elmore, K.C. (2007). Evaluation of the North Carolina Middle School, Media Literacy, Substance Abuse Prevention Project. Poster presented at the first Research Summit of the Alliance for a Media Literate America, St. Louis, MO.
DeBenedittis, P., Loughery, M., McCannon, B., & Goldsborough, S. (2000). Alcohol prevention children love to learn! Paper presented at the Alcohol Policy XII Conference, Alcohol & Crime, Research for Practice and Prevention, Washington, D.C.
Ellickson, P. L., Collins, R.L., Hambarsoomians, K., & McCaffrey, D.F. (2005). Does alcohol advertising promote adolescent drinking? Results from a longitudinal assessment. Addiction, 100(2), 235-246.
Kupersmidt, J.B., Barrett, T.M., Elmore, K.C., & Benson, J.W. (2007). Preliminary Findings from the Evaluation of the Elementary Media Literacy, Substance Abuse Prevention Project. Paper presented at the first Research Summit of the Alliance for a Media Literate America, St. Louis, MO.
Kupersmidt, J., Feagans, L., Eisen, M., & Hicks, R. (May, 2005). The North Carolina Media Literacy Education Program: An evaluation. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Intervention Research, Washington, D.C.
Rideout, V., Roberts, D.F., & Foehr, U.G. (2005). Generation m: Media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Slater, M.D., Rouner, D., Murphy, K., Beauvais, F., Van Leuven, J., & Domenech-Rodriguez, M.M. (1996). Adolescent counterarguing of tv beer advertisements: Evidence for effectiveness of alcohol education and critical viewing discussions. Journal of Drug Education, 26(2), 143-158.
What makes Media Ready unique?
The Media Ready (MR) program is designed to delay or prevent alcohol and tobacco use. The program is built upon a conceptual model of how youth interpret media messages and how these interpretations result in the decision to use or not use alcohol or tobacco products. MR has also been evaluated in a randomized controlled trial.
- Evidence-Based: It is one of the few, if not the only, evidence-based, media literacy, substance abuse prevention programs currently available for use with middle school-aged youth.
- Scope and Sequence: One can find literally hundreds of existing media literacy activities that are fun, engaging and educational; however, MR is unique because the scope and sequence of the activities were developed and organized to reflect the most up-to-date research findings in the fields of substance abuse prevention, social cognition, and media literacy education.
- Fun, Interactive Learning: Although MR has the goal of alcohol abuse prevention, students are not initially aware that prevention is the focus of the program. While exploring advertising techniques, alcohol advertisements are shown to the students as examples along with many other types of products and services.
- Lessons Based on a Conceptual Model: MR is based on a conceptual model of how media messages are processed by children and has the goal of changing how children are able to think about and respond to media messages.
- Teacher Training Workshop: Comprehensive training workshop for teachers includes introduction to the theory and research underlying the program model.
- Follows Standard Course of Study: The program and lesson objectives are integrated with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in Language Arts, Information Skills, and Healthful Living, and are applicable to the Learning Objectives/Education Standards of other states.
- Curriculum is Adaptable: The curriculum is adaptable to a variety of classroom settings, teaching styles, and student skill levels and also to a variety of learning environments including schools, afterschool programs, and community settings.
- Significant Prevention Findings: The MR program reduc es boys’ intentions to use alcohol and reduces boys’ and girls’ intentions to use tobacco products. M R is a promising preventive intervention program which should reduce the likelihood of underage drinking and increase the likelihood of delaying the onset of alcohol use.
What is an evidence-based program and why is it important?
An evidence-based program is one that has been evaluated in one or more research studies. For example, Media Ready has been evaluated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the most stringent test of the effectiveness of an intervention. This means that schools were randomly assigned to receive the MR training and program (intervention group) or not (control group). Students in both groups completed a pre-test and post-test questionnaire; however, the intervention group was taught the MR program in between questionnaire administrations and the control group was taught their usual classroom material.
Because this RCT design was used, differences between youth in the intervention versus the control groups at post-test can be said to be caused by having participated in the MR program . The use of this design is important because it can be concluded that the program is, in fact, effective, given that its implementation replicates or copies the procedures used in the original study. This distinguishes Media Ready from other programs that make anecdotal or unscientific claims around child outcomes.
What are the goals of the Media Ready program?
- Encourage healthy cognitions about abstinence from alcohol use in middle school students;
- Enhance middle school students’ ability to apply critical thinking skills to interpreting media messages, in general, and alcohol media messages, in particular; and
- Long-term goal is to d elay or prevent the onset of underage alcohol use.
What is included in the Media Ready program?
This evidence-based, media literacy, substance abuse prevention program consists of
- Eight-hour teacher training workshop conducted by MR certified trainers
- Teacher manual of a scripted 10-lesson curriculum
- Accompanying handouts and collateral materials
This program was designed for use with 6th through 8th grade students.
What are the findings of the Media Ready evaluation study?
The Media Ready program results show significant:
- Improvement in critical thinking skills about media messages;
- Reduction in boys’ intent to use alcohol products; and
- Reduction in intent to use tobacco products.
Is Media Ready effective for preventing underage drinking?
The results of a randomized controlled trial designed to examine the effectiveness of the MRprogram indicate that it is changed key outcome variables .
Specifically, the findings indicate that:
- Students who received the curriculum were better at analyzing advertisements and identifying key parts of an ad, such as who the target audience of the ad is and the implied messages that are used to persuade the consumer.
- Boys who received the curriculum reported that they were less likely to use alcohol in the future than boys who did not receive the curriculum.
- Youth who participated in the program reported significantly lower intent to use tobacco products in the future.
- M R fits equally well in a Health Education or Language Arts setting and in grades 6th, 7th, and 8th, as evidenced by similar outcomes (e.g., intentions to use alcohol and media deconstruction skills).
- Students evaluated the curriculum very positively; they liked learning about the media and becoming media literate .
- Teachers also evaluated the curriculum very positively; they liked teaching the media literacy lessons.
Why not just tell students that underage drinking is illegal and bad for them?
Media Ready students have found the journey from being a passive to active media consumer to be intellectually stimulating. Telling students that media messages are bad is not effective; nor is it true. Similarly, warning students of the dangers of alcohol use has not been a successful strategy on its own.
Media literacy education aims to empower students with the skills they need to draw their own conclusions about pro-substance media messages. To be sure, this is but one element in what must be a multi-faceted approach to the problem of youth substance abuse, but it is one that is designed to engage young people and spur them to action.
Is Media Ready easy to implement and teach?
Teachers involved in the evaluation study who attended the engaging and interactive one-day training program by iRT, found the program easy to learn and easy to teach.
iRT aimed to minimize teacher preparation by providing, whenever possible, all materials necessary for the activities that are included in the M R program. This program was designed to be adaptable to a variety of different types of classroom settings, teaching styles, and student skill levels.
How are the lessons organized?
Each lesson is outlined in a convenient “Lesson-At-A-Glance” format. These lesson summaries include the major goals and objectives for the lesson along with a list of materials needed to complete the classroom activities. This “Lesson-At-A-Glance” page provides an outline of the day’s activities that can be photocopied, so that teachers can use the outline while they teach and can make their own instructional notes on the page.
What is the content of the Media Ready program?
The curriculum concepts build upon themselves. The first part of the curriculum introduces students to many of the key concepts in media literacy, such as developing an understanding that all media messages have a target audience and being able to identify the target audience. Students also learn to identify the implied messages embedded in media messages as well as learn the seven key critical thinking questions regarding media messages. By learning and applying the key MR questions, students see the benefits of becoming active rather than passive media consumers. During the next part of the curriculum, students apply their new media deconstruction skills to the analysis and evaluation of a wide variety of ads including ads for food, cars, and beauty products. After substantial practice in the application of these critical thinking skills , students transition to deconstructing tobacco and alcohol ads. The curriculum culminates with a media production activity , which provides students with an opportunity to express their media production skills through the creation of an alcohol or tobacco counter-ad .
The teacher manual contains 10 scripted lessons with accompanying:
- Vocabulary words
- Teacher preparation list
- Lesson-At-A-Glance page
- CD of advertisements used in the curriculum as teaching aids
- Student worksheets for each lesson
- Extension activities
- References and resources page.
How important is it to attend an educator training workshop?
Attendance at a teacher training workshop is fundamental to success in implementation of theMedia Ready program. This conclusion is based upon recent research by Hobbs and Frost (2003) who examined high school teachers implementing media literacy in their classrooms for one year. They found that at the close of the study, some teachers were still uncomfortable analyzing advertisements as well as guiding their students through the process.
This important finding is consistent with the idea that media literacy skills are a challenging set of critical thinking skills to master, even for adults. Because of the abstract nature of persuasive messages found in advertising, it is believed that a key element of this curriculum is to slowly and cumulatively build critical thinking and media deconstruction skills in both the adults teaching the program as well as in the students who are taking it. The educator training workshop and the cumulative nature of the Media Ready program are designed to enhance the likelihood that all participants will internalize these skills.
What is the content of the educator training workshop?
The educator training workshop is designed to last eight hours and is led by the program developers and their training team, who are skilled trainers of both media literacy and the Media Ready program. After an introduction to the research on the effectiveness of media literacy training for the purpose of substance abuse prevention and the theoretical model underlying the program, trainers present each lesson in detail to trainees, providing guided discussion of the purpose of each activity, strategies for implementing each activity, and modeling of the activities.
Emphasis is placed on trainees receiving multiple opportunities for deconstructing media and for developing a deep understanding of the goals of the program manifested in the lesson activities.
Who developed this program?
The Media Ready program was developed by innovation Research & Training under a contract funded by the NC-DHHS/Federal OJJDP Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program.
Media Ready is the product of the collaboration of leading child, clinical and developmental psychologists who are also substance abuse prevention scientists and experienced educators.
Hobbs, R., & Frost, R. (2003). Measuring the acquisition of media-literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(3), 330-355.