Klein Buendel and the Center for Media Literacy in California are launching a new research project to update and translate Beyond Blame: Challenging Violence in the Media, an evidence-based media-literacy violence prevention curriculum for middle school students, formerly delivered in person, into an interactive technology-based platform. Beyond Blame, developed by the Center for Media Literacy, is a theory-based curriculum that underwent a rigorous long-term evaluation, in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Violence prevention programs, including school-based education programs, are recommended to address youth violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “youth violence is a serious public health problem and that an adverse childhood experience can have a long-term impact on health and well-being, disproportionately impacting communities of color.” Violence affects thousands of youths each day as well as their families, schools, and communities. CDC reports that youth can be involved in violence as a victim, offender, or witness. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24 and the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic Black or African American youth.1,2 However, youth violence is preventable and the development of evidence-based approaches that address the factors to decrease the risk of violence, buffer against that risk, and promote positive youth development and well-being3 are imperative.
A number of factors exist that may increase or decrease the possibility of youth experiencing or enacting violence. Media violence has long been identified by public health as a risk factor and violent content in television, social media, and video games has been associated with aggression and youth violence. Yet, media literacy programs are often not included in violence prevention efforts. Media literacy is recognized as a life skill to strengthen and provide resiliency for an individual’s ability to resist negative and harmful messages that are powerfully packaged and promoted in the media.
Today, youth live in an unprecedented mediated environment. With technology allowing 24-hour media access, the amount of time youth spend with media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth. This is evidenced by widespread media usage by middle school children: 98% watch television, 78% use tablets, 67% interact with smart phones, 73% use computers, and 68% use gaming devices. Children ages 8-12 in the U.S. average 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens. To help children navigate this mediated environment, media literacy education provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate using media in a variety of forms, including videos, social media (such as TikTok and You Tube), video games, film, and television.
Upon completing Beyond Blame in person, students significantly increased their knowledge of the Five Core Concepts/Key Questions of media literacy, increased recognition of their exposure to media violence, and had stronger beliefs that media violence affects users. The original Beyond Blame aligns with the Common Core standards identified for Language Arts, and the technology-based curriculum will adhere to the same standards along with the International Society for Technology in Education Standards that ensure that using technology for learning can create high-impact, sustainable, scalable, and equitable learning experiences for all learners.
This research is supported by a grant from the CDC (1 R43CE003635-01-00). The project team will be led by Multiple Principal Investigators, Dr. Barbara Walkosz, a Senior Scientist at Klein Buendel, and Ms. Tessa Jolls, President of the Center for Media Literacy and will be joined by a Co-Investigator, Dr. Christine Rizzo from Northeastern University in Massachusetts. The Klein Buendel Creative Team will design and program the Beyond Blame prototype.
- David-Ferdon C, Clayton HB, Dahlberg LL, et al. Vital signs: Prevalence of multiple forms of violence and increased health risk behaviors and conditions among youths – United States, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(5):167-173. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7005a4.PMC7861486
- Sheats KJ, Irving SM, Mercy JA, et al. Violence-related disparities experienced by black youth and young adults: opportunities for prevention. Am J Prev Med. 2018;55(4):462-469. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.05.017.PMC6691967
- youth.gov. Youth topics: violence prevention. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. Available at: https://youth.gov/youth-topics/violence-prevention. Accessed March 28, 2022.