Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Innovation Research and Training: Media Detective Family Night

Media Detective Family Night is an innovative, school-based media literacy and substance use prevention workshop for families. The program’s overarching goals are to improve children’s critical thinking skills about media messages—especially those that are alcohol- and tobacco-related—and to reduce their intentions to use alcohol and tobacco products by encouraging parents and caregivers to be proactive mediators of their children’s media exposure. One or more teachers facilitate this one-time workshop designed to reinforce the media literacy skills taught to third- through fifth-grade students who have received the Media Detective curriculum and to motivate parents and caregivers to help their children apply media skills outside of the classroom.

Specifically, Media Detective Family Night (1) encourages families to work together, (2) builds critical-thinking about media messages in general—and substance use in particular, (3) reinforces media-mediation skills, and (4) overcomes barriers to family participation in education programs (due to scheduling challenges, motivation, and stigma related to parent/caregiver education).

With funds from SAMHSA’s Service to Science Subcontract to Build Evaluation Capacity of Evidence-Based Interventions, program staff will implement a pilot study to collect preliminary data on the effectiveness of the Media Detective Family Night program in an effort to secure further funding for conducting a more rigorous randomized controlled trial. The pilot study will involve four elementary school teachers, their students, and those students’ parents or caregivers. In each classroom, participating parents and caregivers will be assigned randomly to the intervention group or the wait-listed control group and will complete a follow-up questionnaire focusing on perceptions of media skepticism, media-deconstruction skills, motivation to practice skills, media-mediation behaviors, and family communication. Teachers will be asked to provide demographic and background information about their students. Other consumer satisfaction measures and implementation measures (e.g., program completion, fidelity of implementation, engagement) will also be examined.

Through these evaluation enhancements, Media Detective Family Night staff will be able to assess the feasibility of the program, and collect preliminary evidence regarding impacts on parents’ or caregivers’ attitudes and behaviors and the degree to which the program is received positively by teachers, parents/caregivers, and students.


Tracy Scull
Research Scientist
Innovation Research and Training
1415 West North Carolina Highway 54, Suite 121
Durham, North Carolina 27707
Phone: 919-493-7700