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Communities Encourage Healthy Choices through the Media-Smart Youth Program

In the U.S., youth ages 8 to 18 use media, on average, more than 7 ½ hours a day – more time than they spend on just about anything else except sleeping.

Media use is one of several important factors that can influence child health, particularly as it relates to nutrition and physical activity. That’s why communities across the country – with help from the National Institutes of Health’s Media-Smart Youth program – are taking steps to help youth better navigate today’s media landscape and understand how media can influence their choices.

Media-Smart Youth’s free curriculum includes ten interactive lessons on media, nutrition, and physical activity. In the program, youth analyze media messages, sample healthy snacks they haven’t tried before, and get moving during fun action breaks. They also create videos, banners, or other media products of their own to encourage their peers to eat healthy and get active, too.

The Media-Smart Youth team at NIH recently checked in with a few nonprofit organizations across the country to learn about their experiences and outcomes with the program.

  • At Alkebu-lan Village, in Detroit, MI, youth took to heart what they learned about good nutrition, and convinced the owner of the on-site convenience store to stock fruit and granola bars so they had healthier snack alternatives. They also videotaped a skit about healthy choices, clips of which aired on a local Saturday morning kids’ TV show with a viewership of 1.8 million people.
  • The YWCA El Paso del Norte Region in Texas took youth on a field trip to the local Telemundo TV station, where youth learned about the production process first-hand and appeared on a live news show to answer questions about the Media-Smart Youth program. Youth also made their own “Food Network Kids” video of a mock cooking competition, in which contestants created different dishes with whole-grain tortillas, including pizza and wraps.
  • In Washington, DC, Kid Power, Inc. inspired youth to share their knowledge with their friends. On Global Youth Service Day, youth staffed a booth to promote food facts and to challenge classmates to identify fruits and vegetables, hidden in bags, using just touch or smell. Kid Power also enlisted students from American University’s film program to share tips about media production and to film a video featuring a dance performance the youth choreographed themselves.

These are just a few of the great stories we heard from community partners implementing Media-Smart Youth. If you’re interested in learning more about this free program for your community, check out this video and the resources below.

  • The Media-Smart Youth website has more information, plus free program materials available for download and mail order.
  • NIH’s We Can! program, of which Media-Smart Youth is a part, has many more free resources for families and communities to help youth eat right, get active, and reduce screen time.
  • Let’s Move Faith & Communities is hosting training webinars for faith and community leaders interested in implementing these programs. To register, visit the HHS Partnership Center’s website.