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Pediatrics. 2010 Sep;126(3):525-31. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-0068. Epub 2010 Aug 23.

Media literacy education for elementary school substance use prevention: study of media detective.

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Innovation Research and Training, 1415 W NC Highway 54, Suite 121, Durham, NC 27707, USA.



Media Detective is a 10-lesson elementary school substance use prevention program developed on the basis of the message interpretation processing model designed to increase children's critical thinking skills about media messages and reduce intent to use tobacco and alcohol products. The purpose of this study was to conduct a short-term, randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of Media Detective for achieving these goals.


Elementary schools were randomly assigned to conditions to either receive the Media Detective program (n=344) or serve in a waiting list control group (n=335).


Boys in the Media Detective group reported significantly less interest in alcohol-branded merchandise than boys in the control group. Also, students who were in the Media Detective group and had used alcohol or tobacco in the past reported significantly less intention to use and more self-efficacy to refuse substances than students who were in the control group and had previously used alcohol or tobacco.


This evaluation provides evidence that Media Detective can be effective for substance use prevention in elementary school-aged children. Notably, media-related cognitions about alcohol and tobacco products are malleable and relevant to the development and maintenance of substance use behaviors during late childhood. The findings from this study suggest that media literacy-based interventions may serve as both a universal and a targeted prevention program that has potential for assisting elementary school children in making healthier, more informed decisions about use of alcohol and tobacco products.

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