A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview
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Children and Media: More
Than Just Little Adults

Q: What is the most watched educational television program of all time?

A: Sesame Street, on the air continuously with new episodes since 1969.

Q: What are the two most important attributes of television shows for children 6 to 11?

A: Comprehensibility and action. These were the most valued attributes by both Dutch and U. S. children (Valkenburg & Janssen, 1999).

Q: How many 7th to 12th grade smokers preferred Camel cigarettes before and after the Old Joe smooth character ad campaign began in 1988?

A: Less than half of one percent chose Camels before Old Joe. Two years later, 33% did (DiFranza et al., 1991).

Q: What ages were deemed appropriate for “Forward Command Post, a bombed out dollhouse with smashed furniture and bullet holes in the walls, and “Burnout 2: Point of Impact, an auto racing video game of scenes of gruesome car crashes, including one where a man's head goes smashing through the windshield?

A: Forward Command Post was recommended for children 5 and up, and Burnout 2 was rated appropriate for 6-year-olds (Herbert, 2002).

Much of the concern about media involves their effect on children, and much of the research cited so far in this book has been done on children. However, in this chapter we look at some aspects of child and adolescent development that are particularly important for understanding the effects that media have on young people. We begin with the way children use different media. Next we look at children's prosocial television and its effects. Next, following up on the last chapter, we examine advertising directed at children, one of the fastest-growing advertising markets. Finally, we examine attempts to teach children about media at home and in other settings, that is, media literacy. We may not be able to completely shield our children from media, but there is much we can do to mitigate its negative effects.


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A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication


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