Spread the call for Media Smart participants

Flinders University researchers who have developed Media Smart Online, a program that reduces the risk of eating disorders – and  has already achieved positive results with young-adult women – is now seeking participants for its expanded trial of 13 to 25-year-olds of any gender.

Dr Simon Wilksch, a Senior Research Fellow in Psychology at Flinders University and Clinic Director at Advanced Psychology Services, says the Media Smart team has found that for both girls and boys, the more social media accounts they had, the higher their level of eating disorder thoughts and behaviours – and they hope the expanded Media Smart program will help reverse this problem.

I am Media Smart, an Australia-wide research trial of Media Smart, is an online program designed to help 13 to 25-year-olds of any gender who wish to improve their body image. It is suitable for young people across the full range of body image concerns, from those with mild concerns through to those experiencing an eating disorder.

Participation in the trial involves completing a survey, being randomly allocated to one of three programs, then completing the survey post-program, six and 12 months later. A $30 gift voucher will be sent to those who complete all surveys as an appreciation for participants’ time.

This new study builds on the award-winning online Media Smart research with women aged 18 to 25 years, where the program was found to: reduce eating disorder (ED) onset by 66% (in those without an ED at baseline) and increase remission rates by 75% (in those with an ED at baseline) relative to controls; reduce the onset of depressive symptoms and thoughts about self-harm; increase quality of life; and lower a further five mental health/eating disorder risk factors.

Thus, the program had both ‘prevention’ and treatment effects, as well as improving a variety of indicators of mental health risk. The findings were so positive that funding has been received to extend the research to a wider audience and to test out differing rates of delivery of Media Smart (weekly vs user chooses own rate).

The researchers are aiming to reach as many young people as possible while the study’s recruitment period remains open until April. “The start of the university year is a time of change, stress and anxiety for many young people,” says Dr Wilksch. “We also know that body image and eating concerns affect a high proportion of young-adults – and we want parents to help by suggesting their children’s involvement in the study.”

Dr Wilksch suggests for all parents and concerned adults to place the approved flyer (which includes QR code) in spaces that young people see, such as waiting rooms, noticeboards at schools, universities, gyms and sporting clubs. He also suggests sharing information about the study on social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook

“We are asking parents to please share this research with their children, their child’s school and other parents.”

Media Smart does not discuss eating disorders and individuals have no contact with other participants. Specific information can be found here.

The research is approved by the Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (Project 8287).

Recruitment concludes in April, and Dr Wilksch is keen to reach as many young people as possible before this time.

For further information, including details of social media research that informs Media Smart, see here. If you have any further questions or comments, please email Simon.Wilksch@flinders.edu.au

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