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Can alcohol media literacy training for children and young people prevent alcohol related harm? A realist review of what works for whom and in what contexts

Principal Investigator: Doctor Rachel Brown

Co Investigators: Doctor Sarah MacDonald, Professor Simon Murphy


Alcohol media literacy interventions aim to develop capacity for critical analysis of media content in children and young people, in order to facilitate ability to resist pro-alcohol portrayals. This study reviewed evaluations of such interventions to understand factors supporting effectiveness including intervention content; theories of change; key mechanisms of delivery; strengths and weaknesses in current evidence and issues pertaining to potential adaptation for delivery in a UK context.

Aims and Objectives

To enhance understanding of key considerations in the development and delivery of alcohol media literacy programmes and to explore pathways of exposure to alcohol media in a sample of young people.

Study Design

This study reviewed existing literature media literacy interventions, with key findings forming the basis for qualitative exploratory work with children in Wales to look at alcohol media exposure. Evidence review identified that interventions delivering core media literacy skills of critical analysis and message dissection, to general population groups within the regular school day, in school settings, consistently attain intended outcomes. No interventions were reported from the UK, meaning understanding of the transferability of programmes is limited. Qualitative group interviews were then completed with pupils from four primary schools and two secondary schools in two counties in South Wales.


Data suggests that exposure to alcohol advertising through mainstream media and online content is limited, with little recollection of specific adverts/brands. Generic alcohol advertising, for example through supermarket promotions, was recalled more frequently than alcohol-specific ads, as well as brands observed through parental consumption and familial social activity. Further, existing levels of technical literacy, exhibited through knowledge of applying account controls, skipping ad content etc. was significant in youth exposure levels, with both children’s and parents’ abilities important.

Further information and publications

A review of alcohol media literacy interventions and potential applications for a UK context – Alcohol Change article

Start date

December 2016

End date

May 2017


Alcohol Research UK