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Course Description

(Cross-listed with FMS 164) Children have long been considered a "special" audience by broadcasters, advertisers, politicians, educators and researchers. This course will introduce you to the logic behind this designation, through a careful and critical examination of the theory and research on children's mass media use, and the influence of media on children. We will explore the relationship between media use and developmental issues, discuss patterns of children's media consumption, and look at both the content and context of children's media, including television, films/videos, advertising, games and websites. We will examine the empirical evidence that has attempted to assess the media's effects on children in a variety of areas, including gender and ethnic stereotyping, explicitly sexual and violent content in both entertainment and news, and also the educational or "pro-social" effects of media. We'll talk about the wall-to-wall advertising to which children are exposed, and look at the claims that advertising and media use have led to an increase in childhood obesity. And we will discuss the technologically saturated world of iPods, iPads, e-books, cell phones and computers that enable communication and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, to see what kinds of effects these technologies might be having on children at different developmental points. We will also critically assess the various regulations that have governed both advertising and programming for children in this country, talk about contemporary regulatory issues and how changes in media ownership rules might affect children's media content. We'll also discuss how technology such as TiVo, the television ratings system, voluntary Internet ratings system and access to the Internet affect children, pay some attention to the hot issue of cyberbullying, and will discuss the roles that parent and citizen activist groups play as watchdogs of children's media and the ways in which they can - and do - apply political pressure that results in change. For each topic we cover, we'll be looking both at the theoretical issues that undergird them, and also at the empirical ones that have attempted to assess, test or analyze them.The centerpiece of the class, however, will be your own work. You will have an opportunity to develop a proposal for a significant piece of research in an area of children and media that most interests you. It's my hope that this is research that you will subsequently carry out and ultimately publish, either as part of your MA or PhD program, or as a piece of applied research.

Affiliated With:

  • School of Arts & Sciences