The Implications of Vantage Point in Parental Mediation of Television and Child's Attitudes toward Drinking Alcohol
Fujioka, Yuki, Austin, Erica Weintraub, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Many scholars have reported substantial disagreement and variance in interpretation when parents and a child report family interactions, including family communication styles (Austin, 1992, 1993b; Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990; Tein, Roosa, & Michaels, 1994; Tims & Masland, 1985) and media-related interactions such as behavior surrounding television (e.g., Greenberg, Ericson, & Vlahos, 1971; Rossiter & Robertson, 1975; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000). These reports raise an important question about the literature of parental mediation, which suggests that parents can play a crucial role by mediating possible influences of television on children (e.g., Austin, 2001; Austin, Pinkleton, & Fujioka, 2000; Desmond, Singer, Singer, Calam, & Colimore, 1985; Nathanson, 1999; Valkenburg, Krcmar, Peeters, & Marseille, 1999; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000). Although recent research has stressed the importance of children's perspectives when examining family television interaction (e.g., Austin, 1993b; Nathanson, 2001a; Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000), most studies have depended heavily on parents' self-reports of mediation behavior when examining mediation effects on a child. Recent research (Nathanson, 2001a), however, reported a weak correspondence between parents' reports and children's reports about parental mediation even when they were asked to describe it in a specific context. The implications of scholars' reliance on child or parent reports, therefore,
require further investigation.
Accordingly, this study examines mediation effects from both the children's and parents' perspectives. It addresses the following two issues regarding parental mediation: (a) the extent of agreement/disagreement between parent's and child's reports on parental mediation behavior; and (b) which mediation reports better predict relevant outcomes--more specifically, a child's attitudes toward drinking alcohol. The child's attitudes toward alcohol are investigated because this is one of the dependent variables that have been examined in the mediation literature (e.g., Austin et al., 2000).
The goal of this study is not to determine who (either parent or child) can provide more accurate or honest reports about parental mediation, but rather to clarify whose perspective should be taken into account in a given context (e.g., evaluating the effectiveness of parental mediation or exploring parent's motives underlying mediation behavior). This clarification is important because it may help improve the internal validity of research to achieve a better understanding of parental mediation and outcomes. In addition, some of the findings offered by this study are of practical use. For instance, this study reveals what type of mediation behavior seems easy or difficult for parents and a child to discuss. This information may be beneficial for media educators and practitioners to develop better media literacy programs through which parents may learn how their mediation efforts can be effectively internalized as intended by a child.
Parental Influence and Mediation
The literature has indicated four possible routes through which parents influence the effects of media messages on their children. These include (a) rule-making strategies (restricting a child's television viewing); (b) active mediation (critical discussion with a child); (c) parent-child general communication norms (McLeod & Chaffee, 1972); and (d) parental modeling (Austin, 2001; Desmond et al., 1985). Although coviewing often has been considered as a direct intervention analogous to mediation, some have suggested that it may relate more to parental modeling (Austin, 2001). Coviewing is a parental act of viewing television with a child, which can be applied to any situation in which a primary caregiver and a child watch television together. Active mediation, however, refers to an occurrence of parent-child discussion regarding television messages, through which parents provide explanations and clarifications of television content to their children. Active mediation can take place at any time regardless of television viewing. Also, recent research suggests that mere coviewing of television content can be interpreted by a child as parental endorsement of the material, which in fact may facilitate message effects (Nathanson, 2001a). As a result, it is important to consider coviewing in conjunction with, but separate from, mediation.
Parental mediation differs from other forms of parental behavior surrounding television in that it involves actual discussion of television messages. Cumulative research has suggested that active parental mediation via critical discussion is the most promising type of parental influence for combating possible negative influences of media (Austin, Fujioka, Boils, & Engelbertson, 1999; Nathanson, 1999). It may cultivate critical-thinking skills and skepticism in a child (Austin, 1993a; Austin et al., 2000) via a reasoning-oriented discussion rather than through the parent's use of control, which may backfire (e.g., Nathanson, 1999). While both rule-making and coviewing provide for parental control over, and involvement in, a child's media use, neither necessarily encourages a child's decision-making skills. A recent study (Van den Buick & Van den Bergh, 2000), for example, reported that restrictive parental guidance might reduce a child's television viewing, but the decrease in the use of television resulted in an increase in the use of other media providing gratifications similar to television, such as computer games.
Valence of Mediation
Conceptualizations of mediation have been evolving as it has become better understood. Valkenburg et al. (1999), for example, has conceptualized parental mediation as a non-valenced construct ("instructive" mediation). Austin et al. (1999), on the other hand, perceive it as a directional or "valenced" construct with two distinct dimensions, negative and positive mediation. Parents may "endorse" some television messages via positive mediation strategies while "counter-arguing" other messages via negative mediation. The "positive" or the "negative" nature of mediation reflects the nature of discussion, whether expressing agreement or disagreement with television messages. Parents may exercise either or both types of mediation styles according to their concern and attitudes toward television messages (Austin, et. al., 1999). Nathanson's recent study (2001a), for instance, showed that parental discussion involved in negative mediation of television violence was derived from parents' concern for possible harmful message effects on their children.
Positive mediation has similarities to the construct of "social coviewing" proposed by Valkenburg et al. (1999), which focuses on parents and children using media together for enjoyment rather than for instruction. Valkenburg et al., however, combine the act of coviewing with positive affect, while Austin et al. (1999) focus on affirmative commentary without the assumption of co-use. Austin et al. have proposed a separate index to measure co-use without presuming that co-use includes discussion of any sort.
The valence of mediation as identified by Austin et al. (1999) seems to provide an important distinction since the literature suggests that different outcomes associate with the reported frequency of positive and negative mediation. In general, it is negative mediation, not positive mediation, that indicates a parent's intentional discussion with a child. Negative mediation, thus, helps a child develop critical viewing skills and reduce television influence (Austin et al., 2000). Positive mediation, however, often takes place on a haphazard basis and associates with more positive views about television content and uses. As an intervention strategy, positive mediation appears to backfire by reinforcing what is …
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Publication information: Article title: The Implications of Vantage Point in Parental Mediation of Television and Child's Attitudes toward Drinking Alcohol. Contributors: Fujioka, Yuki - Author, Austin, Erica Weintraub - Author. Journal title: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. Volume: 47. Issue: 3 Publication date: September 2003. Page number: 418+. © 2009 Broadcast Education Association. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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