Developing A Scale to Assess Three Styles of Television Mediation: "Instructive Mediation," "Restrictive Mediation," and "Social Coviewing"

Article excerpt

The past two decades have witnessed a considerable increase of research on adult mediation of children's television viewing. The studies can generally be divided into three categories. The first category consists of research assesslng the occurrence of television mediation in the home (Austin, 1993; Bybee, Robinson, & Turow, 1982; Dorr, Kovaric, & Doubleday, 1989; Huston & Wright, 1996; Mohr, 1979; St. Peters, Fitch, Huston, Wright, & Eakins, 1991; Weaver & Barbour, 1992). Occurence studies document how often parents mediate their child's viewing: how often they restrict their child's television viewing (e.g., Bybee et al., 1982), how often they discuss television shows with their children (e.g., Austin, 1993) or how often they coview (that is, watch television shows together) (e.g., St. Peters et al., 1991).

The second category of mediation studies has enumerated the precursors of various styles of mediation (Abelman & Pettey, 1989; Atkin, Greenberg, & Baldwin, 1991; Brown, Childers, Bauman, & Koch, 1990; Gross & Walsh, 1980; Lin & Atkin, 1989; Messaris & Kerr, 1983; Morgan, Alexander, Shanahan, & Harris, 1990; Van der Voort, Nikken, & Van Lil, 1992; Van Lil, 1995; Weaver & Barbour, 1992). Precursor studies have found that mothers are more likely than fathers to restrict television viewing by their children (e.g., Bybee et al., 1982), and are more likely to evaluate television for their children (e.g., Mohr, 1979). It has also been found that parents with higher levels of education are more likely to restrict their children's television viewing (see, for example, Brown et al., 1990) and to discuss the content of the programs with their children (e.g., Gross & Walsh, 1980). Lastly, it has been shown that parents of younger children are likely to engage in more television mediation than parents of older children (e.g., Lin & Atkins, 1989).

The third category of mediation research has examined the effects of television mediation (Ball & Bogatz, 1970; Cantor & Wilson, 1984; Collins, 1983; Collins, Sobol, & Westby, 1981; Corder-Bolz, 1980; Corder-Bolz & O'Bryant, 1978; Friedrich & Stein, 1975; Prasad, Rao, & Seikh, 1978; Salomon, 1977; Valkenburg, Krcmar, & De Roos, 1998; Watkins, Calvert, Huston-Stein, & Wright, 1980). Effects studies have shown that a coviewing adult who offers comments and interpretations of content can improve children's learning from educational programs (e.g., Ball & Bogatz, 1970), modify children's attitudes toward TV violence (for example, Corder-Bolz & O'Bryant, 1978), make children feel more positive towards non-traditional sex roles (Corder-Bolz, 1980), counteract the undesirable effects of television commercials (Prasad et al., 1978), soothe children who are exposed to frightening television scenes (Cantor & Wilson, 1984), and stimulate children's knowledge of art and culture (Valkenburg et al., 1998).

In terms of method, the first two categories of studies on occurrence of mediation and on precursors of mediation have involved survey data. With the exception of Dorr et al. (1989) and Austin (1993), the third category of studies into the effects of mediation has involved experimental designs only. Despite the fact that experiments allow for maximum control of the environment by the researcher and thus achieve high internal validity, experiments have disadvantages as well. Their settings are not natural, and they cannot test claims of long-term effects. To overcome these difficulties and to develop a clearer understanding of the effects of different styles of television mediation, both cross-sectional and longitudinal survey studies are necessary.

However, to investigate the short- and long-term effects of television mediation in a survey context investigators need a reliable instrument that measures the different styles of television mediation used by parents. …