Media Smart is an evidence-based 8-lesson media literacy program for students in late primary school or early high school. It is suitable for teachers to use in a range of classes including English, study of society, home economics, physical education, pastoral care and home group.
Topics covered include techniques used by the media to manipulate images (eg airbrushing), ideas for how to analyse and challenge media messages, tips for handling pressure placed on young people and planning for how to move through adolescence and beyond as a skilful and confident person. Media Smart targets media internalisation which refers to when people believe they must look like the ideal images presented in the media.
Yes, students' reaction to Media Smart was very positive. Approximately 98% of both girls and boys rated the program as being valuable and enjoyable. Many very positive comments were recorded on feedback sheets including:
Our researchers evaluated Media Smart in one of the largest and longest eating disorder prevention studies that has ever been conducted around the world. This involved 24 classes of Year 8 students (540 people) where half the classes received the program and the other half did not. Students completed questionnaires of eating disorder risk factors on 4 occasions:
We found that those who received the program, on average had significantly lower scores on 6 of the 9 eating disorder risk factors measured across the post-program and follow-up periods.
Early adolescence is usually a time when scores on eating disorder risk factors increase. Media Smart participants experienced a drop in scores as a result of the program and stayed well below control participants over the duration of the study.
Our findings were extremely positive compared to other prevention research. Many programs have found no benefit whatsoever, and it has even been suggested that some have caused harm. For those who do find benefit at post-program, often these benefits have disappeared by 6- or 12-month follow-up. Many researchers now do prevention work with females-only, above the age of 15 (often university students), who already show high body dissatisfaction and early signs of disordered eating as there is more statistical scope to achieve impressive findings with these types of audiences.
Our research shows however that it is possible to achieve a lasting benefit with mixed gender, younger audiences who don’t already have high body dissatisfaction.
There is a strong concern about obesity in our society. Recent research has suggested there are some risk factors that apply to both eating disorders and obesity. Thus we conducted the Prevention Across the Spectrum trial where we looked at whether Media Smart and 2 other programs could reduce risk factors for both eating disorders and obesity in 1,316 Year 7 and 8 students. Media Smart was the superior program showing benefits on a range of risk factors including important obesity risk factors such as physical activity and screen time. In addition, Media Smart girls had half the risk of control girls of developing clinical concerns about their body shape and weight at 12-month follow-up. This is an extremely encouraging finding given this is regarded as the most important eating disorder risk factor, and as a key therapy target in people with eating disorders.
The program includes information for teachers on the area of body image and eating disorders, detailed lesson plans and a workbook for students.
The program is intended for purchase by schools and is available for AUD$495 (including GST) per school.
Please note purchase of the program entitles that school to use the program with all students (late primary school and early high school would be most appropriate). Money received from the sale of Media Smart will fund further eating disorder research.
Dr Simon Wilksch
Phone: +61 8 8201 7996
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