Parent-Teen Communication to Resist Unhealthy Media Messages

Period of Performance: 04/01/2017 - 03/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Innovation Research and Training, Inc.
Durham, NC 27713
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT The disturbingly high rates of early and risky sexual behaviors of adolescents and the glamorization of risky sexual behavior in the media suggest the need for new evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents. Parents serve as a major socialization agent for their teens and they can help improve adolescents? outcomes by increasing their communication with their children about sexual health topics and media influences. Unfortunately, many parents do not feel comfortable talking about sex or contraception with their children. One approach to these discussions is to train parents in how to engage with their teenaged children in discussions about the media to increase their children?s critical thinking skills. By jointly analyzing media messages, parents can help their children to develop healthy perspective taking about romantic relationships and sexual behavior. The proposed project will complete the development of the Media Aware Parent (MAP) program, a web application intervention designed to provide parents with media mediation skills, sexual health knowledge, and practice in parent-adolescent communication. It is hypothesized that this program will enhance parents? feelings of efficacy for and increase the frequency of open, responsive, comprehensive, and medically accurate conversations about sexual health topics, especially parent-child pairs are exposed to sexualized media messages. The program uses a media literacy framework (e.g., Message Interpretation Process model) found to be effective in reducing risk behaviors (substance use and early/risky sexual behaviors). The program is innovative because it is focused on engaging parents in sexual health communication with their children; expands upon a successful theoretical framework for risk prevention; would be the first evidence-based, web-based media literacy education program for parents; integrates branching pedagogy for skills-based communication practice; and will have equal representation of fathers and mothers in the development and evaluation of the program. Program development in Phase II will consist of revising the existing intervention based upon feedback from parents who participated in the Phase I project. Expert consultants, focus group discussions, and usability studies will contribute to the iterative development of four additional lessons to the intervention. Finally, a randomized controlled trial with parents and their middle school-aged children (N=400 pairs) with a six-month follow-up assessment will be conducted to evaluate the program?s efficacy for promoting sexual health and reducing sexual risk behaviors compared to an active control program.