Wang, Yinhan; 2011, ‘Media Literacy Dossier: research review 8 (Byrne 2009), LSE Media Policy Project, April

28. Full reference details of reviewed article: Byrne, S. (2009). Media literacy interventions: What makes them boom or boomerang? Communication Education, 58(1), 1-14. Conceptions/definition of media literacy (or related concept) used Media literacy intervention refers to ‘an experimental treatment that introduces specific concepts to respondents with the aim of increasing awareness and promoting deeper understanding of the meaning contained in media messages.’ The goal is to help ‘build the cognitive skills required to process media messages in a more active way’ (pp. 1-2). The author’s review on studies on media literacy interventions concludes that evaluative mediation (promotes active learning and critical assessment of media content) is more successful than factual mediation (giving facts about the media). Research method/scope of empirical work 156 U.S. children in grade 4th and 5th participate in the study. They were randomly assigned to three conditions: basic (students received a lesson about violence in the media), activity (apart from the same lesson, they also did a cognitive activity that involved writing about what they learned and being videotaped as they read aloud their writing) and control (a placebo lesson on jobs in movies, and an activity involving writing a short script and acting it). All students watched a clip from Karate Kid and did a pre-test on aggression and character evaluation prior to the different intervention treatments outlined above. After the treatments, they all did a post-test on aggression, character evaluation and lesson evaluation. Six weeks later, they all did a re-test on aggression and character evaluation. Key findings - Students who had the cognitive activity after the lesson reported a reduction in willingness to use aggression, while children who did not had the cognitive activity after the lesson reported an increase in willingness to use aggression. The media literacy lesson offered might have brought students’ attention to violence without helping to develop the cognitive skills required to process the information. - Students who received the media literacy lesson, regardless of the participation in cognitive activity or not, reported higher willingness to use aggression when compared with those who only received a placebo lesson. In other words, students who did not have any media literacy interventions reported the lowest aggression scores. - The effects of media literacy interventions disappeared as time goes by.

Key implications for research and policymaking - Media literacy interventions can be helpful or harmful. Future studies should have more refined comparative conditions in order to understand the boomerang effect, and determine what factor in each condition works or does not work. - Whether it is appropriate to use violent clips to teach media literacy remains disputable. - More research should be done to assess whether cognitive activity helps, but perhaps on some other topics. - What type of content should be included and would be appropriate/effective in the media literacy interventions? Who would be the suitable instructors for what target groups?