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Substance Abuse PreventionSubstance Abuse Prevention

Substance Abuse Prevention

Media Literacy EducationMedia Literacy Education

Media Literacy Education

Media Literacy's Role in PreventionMedia Literacy's Role in Prevention

Media Literacy's Role in Prevention

What is Media Literacy

Media Literacy as an Approach to Substance Abuse 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.