What Is It?
Take It Seriously; Sex, Abstinence & Media (TISSAM) is a media literacy- based curriculum presented by teens to teens. The curriculum made possible with funding from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) requires active inquiry, critical thinking and problem-solving skills of both its teen audience as well as its teen presenters. Through its lessons, teens become engaged in questioning and reexamining their own knowledge, attitudes and choices regarding sexual and reproductive health issues.

The purpose of media literacy education, the foundation for this program, is to help students develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression they need to become critical thinkers and effective communicators in today’s media-rich environment in which they are now living. Media literacy expands the concept of literacy (reading and writing) to include all forms of media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in their September 2010 Policy statement—Sexuality, Contraception and the Media tells us that it can now be argued that the media have become one of the leading sex educators in the United States today. The AAP urges schools to insist on comprehensive sex education programs that incorporate the basic principles of media literacy in order to counter the influence of sexually suggestive and explicit media. Considerable research, as the AAP so clearly notes, has indicated the media can have a major effect on young people’s attitudes and behaviors. Studies have shown, however, that effective media literacy programs can be protective against unhealthy media effects. One of the main studies that the AAP chooses to cite as an example here is research conducted during the development of the TISSAM program.