Evaluating the Short-term Impact of Media Aware Parent, a Web-based Program for Parents with the Goal of Adolescent Sexual Health Promotion

  • Tracy M. ScullEmail author
  • Christina V. Malik
  • Elyse M. Keefe
  • Alexander Schoemann
Empirical Research


Parents can significantly impact their adolescent child’s sexual and relationship decision-making, yet many parents are not effectively communicating with their teens about these topics. Media are sexual socialization agents for adolescents, which can encourage early or risky sexual activity. Media Aware Parent is a web-based program for parents of adolescents that was designed to improve adolescent sexual health by providing parents with the skills to have high-quality communication with their child about sex and relationships as well as to mediate their media usage. This web-based randomized controlled trial was conducted in 2018–2019 with parent-child pairs (grades 7, 8, or 9; N = 355) from across the United States. Parent participants identified as mostly female (75%), white/Caucasian (74%); and non-Hispanic (92%). The youth sample was more balanced in terms of gender (45% female) and more diverse with respect to race (66% white) and ethnicity (86% non-Hispanic). Twenty-eight percent of the families identified as a single parent household, and 35% of the youth were eligible for free school lunch. The present study assessed the short-term effects of Media Aware Parent on parent–adolescent communication, adolescent sexual health outcomes, and media-related outcomes across a one-month timeframe. Parents were randomly assigned to the intervention (Media Aware Parent) or active control group (online access to medically-accurate information on adolescent sexual health). The intervention improved parent–adolescent communication quality as rated by both parents and youth. Youth were more likely to understand that their parent did not want them to have sex at this early age. Youth reported more agency over hook-ups, more positive attitudes about sexual health communication and contraception/protection, and more self-efficacy to use contraception/protection, if they decide to have sexual activity. The intervention improved media literacy skills in both parents and youth, and resulted in youth being more aware of family media rules. Parents gave overwhelming positive feedback about Media Aware Parent. The results from this pretest-posttest study provide evidence that Media Aware Parent is an effective web-based program for parents seeking to enhance parent–adolescent communication and media mediation, and positively impact their adolescents’ sexual health outcomes.


Adolescent sexual health Parent–adolescent communication Media literacy education Prevention Program evaluation 



We wish to thank our community partners who assisted with the study and the parents and youth who participated in the study.

Authors’ Contributions

T.M.S. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; C.V.M. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; E.K. participated in study design and coordination, participated in the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. A.S. performed the statistical analysis, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.


This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number R44HD082968 to the first author. Research reported in this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The first three authors are employees at a small business that has a financial interest in the sale of Media Aware Parent. The statistical analyses were conducted by the fourth author, who does not have any conflicts to disclose.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval was obtained from the innovation Research & Training Internal Review Board prior to data collection.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Adult participants endorsed consent forms for their participation and permission forms for their child’s participation. Youth participants endorsed assent forms for their participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.innovation Research & TrainingDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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