NIMH/SBIR Parent-Teen Communications Project – Brown University
Developed online experience (“Working It Out Together”) to improve parent-teen communication
2012 – 2014

This two-year project was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants program. The goal was to create a “Family-based HIV Prevention: An Interactive DVD.” The final product, “Working It Out Together: Successful Parent-Teen Communication,” is an online, digital self-education experience for both teens and parents/caregivers. It is an evidence-based, “workshop-in-a-box,” translated into a digital tool to be used by adults (parents, caregivers, providers) and teens. This family-based product gives African American parents the tools needed to be sure that their youth can make better decisions across a number of health issues. Caregivers learn how to better communicate and share and reinforce their morals and values. The foundation of the learning experience is teaching both parents and teens, through separate platforms, how to be more assertive and therefore more effective communicators.

MEE produced an educational video (DVD) and multimedia curriculum with a focus on improving communication between parents and their teen children. The foundation of the project content was a joint, face-to-face workshop for parents and their teen children (Project STYLE) that had demonstrated efficacy in a randomized trial study. Project STYLE was developed by MEE’s academic partners, a team of psychiatrists and psychologists from Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital (RIH).

To take the intervention to the next level and prepare it for commercial distribution and use in underserved communities, MEE developed an interactive video package, a customized website and user workbooks (curriculum) for both parents and adolescents. Part of the project included MEE enhancing a previously shot dramatic film, in order to add the educational elements needed to reduce sexual risk behavior and substance use among urban African-American youth. The new video content addressed how to improve parent-adolescent communication and interactions, parental monitoring, increasing parent and adolescent knowledge of HIV/STD information, substance use and adolescent risk reduction.

Product-feasibility testing was done in both Philadelphia and Providence through a randomized trial with 170 parent-adolescent dyads. An evaluation compared “Working It Out Together” to a general family-health DVD and workbook. Dr. Larry Brown and his research team at RIH compiled the research data and found a significant effect upon teens in the intervention, who reported more parental knowledge and oversight of their whereabouts when not at home.

MEE enhanced the final product (DVD and workbook) using the feedback from the dyads in the research, enhancing the workbook and reorganizing the teen video to clarify instructions for each section. The product was also revised so that it can all be viewed online using a website, as well as purchased as a DVD/workbook product. MEE developed a beta product-sales website, along with marketing materials for print and social media marketing.

An in-depth Commercialization and Marketing Plan was created to help promote the need for and long-term benefits of this innovative, culturally conscious parent-teen communication tool. The Plan also outlined key marketing and advertising strategies, including MEE’s longer-term plan for successfully positioning the product to appeal to a variety of target audiences.

Working It Out Together sets the stage for effective dialogue between adults and their teens to discuss a variety of topics. Topics addressed in Working It Out Together include assertive communications, safe sex and healthy relationships, HIV, self-assessment/personal strategies, peer pressure, substance abuse and conflict resolution. Parenting tools include stages of youth development, as well as monitoring tools to address young people’s potentially risky behaviors. Parents will be able to lead their teens to make healthier decisions and generate better outcomes.

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