Well, I’ve spent much of the last year watching the same episode of SpongeBob over and over again. SpongeBob has been the most watched children’s cartoon for the last decade, yet for some reason we can’t bring ourselves to let our kids watch it. What do you think? Too much adult content? Too violent? Not worried? Can’t wait to see what my dissertation determines.
Remember those old black and white episodes of Sesame Street? Of course not, neither do I. But, I came across a study today that looked at young children’s attention to Sesame Street (a black and white Pilot version of Sesame Street no less). The study found that attention to television increased with age. That is, children younger than 2.5 paid attention to visual and auditorily stimulating features, whereas children older than 2.5 were able to give sustained attention toward the TV (in frequency of looking at the TV and in duration of looks). Overall, children paid more attention to Sesame Street when the following were present: women, children, eye contact, puppets, peculiar voices, animation, movement, lively music, rhyming, repetition and alliteration, and auditory change.
I’m surmising that the different amounts of attention kids give TV and different ages has to do with what is called “perceptual boundedness” — the youngest children cannot developmentally give attention to more than the most stimulating thing in their environment. Think about the ramifications for that in your home!
Here is the reference: Anderson, D. R., & Levin, S.R. (1976). Young children’s attention to Sesame Street. Child Development, 47, 806-811.
Yahoo! News recently reported on a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that found five ways TV can hurt your health. Take a look: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/5-ways-tv-can-hurt-your-health.
In a random state-wide phone survey of parents of children ages 2-17, a 1999 study sought to identify demographic predictors of various ways parents interact with their kids about TV. The study concluded that demographic variables are largely not especially predictive of any one type of mediation, although a few results suggested otherwise. For example, parents with more income and more children were more likely to endorse TV content. Also, less educated parents were more likely to co-view (the simple act of watching TV together), suggesting that they had more positive attitudes about television. Higher income predicted less positive attitudes about using television as a babysitter, though having more children was positively related to more positive attitudes about using TV as a babysitter. Lastly, higher education predicted more skepticism toward television advertising as realistic. In summary, the authors concluded that we need to “look beyond demographic correlates to cultural, situational and individual differences” when trying to understand the relationship between parenting and television (p. 429).
Here is the citation: Austin, E.W., Knaus, C. & Meneguelli, A. (1997). Who talks how to their kids about TV: A clarification of demographic correlates of parental mediation patterns. Communication Research Reports, 14, 418-430.
A 1999 study (see reference below) identified 4 distinct types of TV parents: (1) non-mediators – these are parents who do not either endorse nor refute television content; (2) optimists – these are parents who are more likely to endorse TV content than they are to refute TV content; (3) cynics – parents who are more likely to refute TV content than they are to endorse it; and (4) selectives – parents who both refute and endorse TV content.
The study also found that the simple act of watching TV with your child (co-viewing) may imply to your child that you endorse what is being watched, thereby potentially making it more likely that your child will agree with what they are watching.
Here’s the citation: Austin, E.W., Fujioka, Y., Bolls, P. & Engelbertson, J. (1999). How and why parents take on the tube. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 43, 175-92.
After a brief hiatus, I’m back posting to this blog again. I apologize for being away, but grad school seems to have gotten in the way a bit. Anyways, please keep enjoying these posts.
As I’ve begun preparing for my comprehensive exams for this Ph.D. I’m working on, I recently came back across an article – an oldie but goodie – about parental mediation. Austin (1993 – see reference below) found that talking to kids about television predicted children’s skepticism toward television, predicted public affairs media use, and public affairs discussion, even when considering the effect of other types of and norms of family communication.
Here is the reference for this one: Austin, E. W. (1993). Exploring the effects of active parental mediation of television content. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 37, 147-58.
I just got back from a delightful trip to Boston where I presented some research at the International Communication Association annual conference. Once again, I cannot overstate the importance of talking to kids early and often about what they see in the media. Research is beginning to show that talking to kids about content you expect they will find on TV or online BEFORE they see it will reduce the effect of the content better than talking to them AFTER they view it. In other words, it is better to send kids into the battle with a sword in hand than it is to give them a sword after the battle is over.