'Media detective' tool empowers children to skirt alcohol and tobacco marketing messages

Aug 23, 2010

Playing "media detective" allows children to understand the intentions of marketers and the goals of advertising while empowering them to resist messages that encourage alcohol or tobacco use.

A study published in the current journal Pediatrics shows that teaching as early as third grade to be more skeptical of media messages can help prevent substance use. The study, based on the research of Erica Weintraub Austin, director of the Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion at Washington State University, reveals that a brief, two-week course boosted the critical thinking skills of third through fifth graders and reduced their intentions to use alcohol and tobacco while increasing their belief that they will be able to resist them.

"We underestimate the extent to which young children internalize advertising messages," Austin said. "This can affect their consumer decisions later on. For example, children who associate with popularity and independence may want to use tobacco when the opportunity arises.

"Message designers put a lot of proprietary research into making their messages appealing to young people, and children need to understand early on that messages are not always developed with their best interests in mind. This means children must and can learn to discount appeals to their emotions."

According to the research of Austin and colleagues, people internalize or reject media messages through a process that is partly logical and partly emotional. to recognize that message makers want them to react with their emotions can help them react more logically instead.

The study was conducted by Innovation Research Training, Inc, based in North Carolina. Elementary schools were randomly assigned to receive the "Media Detective" program or to serve in a control group. The 344 children who had the Media Detective lessons showed less interest in alcohol-branded merchandise than the 335 in the control group. Also, students in the Media Detective group who had used alcohol or tobacco in the past reported significantly less intention to use and a greater ability to refuse substances than similar students who were in the control group. The lessons especially helped boys.

Previous research by Austin and the team of researchers in The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication's Center for Media & Health Promotion have shown that media literacy can serve as a valuable tool for preventing substance use, for teaching sex education, and for getting young people interested in public affairs and voting. Most previous work has been done with adolescents, however, and the study in "Pediatrics" is among the first to verify that teaching younger children can be useful as well.

Austin says, "Media literacy has the potential to help reduce health disparities in the future, because individuals who need it the most seem to benefit the most. We think that is quite exciting."

Explore further: Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

More information: The study, "Media Literacy Education for Elementary School Substance Use Prevention: Study of Media Detective," by Janis Beth Kupersmidt, Tracy Marie Scull and Erica Weintraub Austin, appears in the issue of Pediatrics published on Aug. 23.

Provided by Washington State University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pitt study finds inequality in tobacco advertising

Aug 20, 2007

Compared with Caucasians, African-Americans are exposed to more pro-tobacco advertising, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published in this month’s Public Health Reports.

Ear infections linked to passive smoking

May 19, 2008

A new report from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has found a strong link between childhood ear infections and exposure to tobacco smoke. The results are published in the latest edition of the Medical Jo ...

Researches link tobacco industry's marketing to youth smoking

Aug 21, 2008

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) released a report, co-edited by University of Minnesota professor Barbara Loken, that reaches the government's strongest conclusion to date that tobacco marketing and depictions of smoking ...

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

6 hours ago

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

Girls got game

7 hours ago

Debi Taylor has worked in everything from construction development to IT, and is well and truly socialised into male-dominated workplaces. So when she found herself the only female in her game development ...

Computer games give a boost to English

23 hours ago

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

Aug 28, 2014

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

User comments : 0