MSU assistant professor publishes research on PopPorn intervention program

July 26, 2022 - Katie Nicpon

Megan Maas

Megan Maas, PhD., assistant professor in the MSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies, recently published, “Popular Culture and Pornography Education to Improve the Efficacy of Secondary School Staff Response to Student Sexual Harassment,” in the American Journal of Sexuality Education. The article details PopPorn, a 1-day intervention program to help public school staff learn about the changing online environment for teens. The goal of the program is for staff to walk away with an understanding of how popular culture and pornography (hence “PopPorn”) shape attitudes and behaviors around sexual misconduct in schools.

“Online sexual experiences via pornography, social media, and sexting can have a negative impact on high school life and the staff who work in schools need to be knowledgeable of these experiences, so they may better respond when online sexual misconduct happens during school hours or impacts students at school,” Dr. Maas said. 

Her most recent work has been to transform her research into actionable school staff support programs and even policy awareness and improvement to address this need.

“Most scientists agree that adolescents need education on how to navigate these experiences – but the adults hired to teach them and care for them at school need training too,” she said. “For example, we try to help them better respond to students who try to seek help after nonconsensual sexting, start conversations when national news coverage of celebrity rape cases break, or how to intervene when a student is watching pornography on a mobile phone in class.” 

PopPorn is the only program of its kind that has been empirically evaluated - which means researchers have collected evidence of how effective the program has been. While other programs have addressed “porn literacy,” or the ability of an individual to think critically about pornography, PopPorn includes literacy of multiple types of media such as film, web and social media.

“This research responds to the growing public health concern over the rise of depression and self-harm for those aged 8-21 years old,” she said. “Since the turn of the century,  high speed internet access has mirrored the rise in these conditions, prompting many scientists to disentangle the pressures of online social life and the increased exposure to sexualized and violent media and this mental health crisis.” 

Dr. Maas’ research at MSU focuses on adolescent sexual development, with specific attention paid to developing programs to teach teens how to navigate their experiences with media like movies, social media and pornography. In 2020, she participated in an MSU TEDx event where she discussed How the Evolution of Porn Changed Adolescence

“We need educational programming for staff working in high schools to be able to respond to these issues and better equip students to navigate their online lives,” she said. 

To learn more about the MSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies, visit