Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Impact of a Cultural Children's Program and Adult Mediation on Children's Knowledge of and Attitudes towards Opera

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Impact of a Cultural Children's Program and Adult Mediation on Children's Knowledge of and Attitudes towards Opera

Article excerpt

Over the past two decades, an increasing number of authors have emphasized that children's learning of knowledge and attitudes from television can be facilitated, channelled, or counteracted through a coviewing adult who offers comments and interpretations of content (e.g., Alexander, 1994; Bybee, Robinson, & Turow, 1982; Huston & Wright, 1996; Huston, Zillmann, & Bryant, 1994; Messaris & Sarett, 1981; St. Peters, Fitch, Huston, Wright, & Eakins, 1991). It is commonly recommended that parents and teachers take an active role in mediating children's experiences with television, that is, help them to understand the medium and its content, encourage them to accept certain messages and reject others, and intervene immediately should undesirable content be broadcast (Desmond, Singer, Singer, Calam, & Colimore, 1985; Dorr, Kovaric, & Doubleday, 1989).

There is ample evidence of the beneficial effects of adult mediation on children's learning of knowledge and attitudes (Huston & Wright, 1996). Several experiments have demonstrated that a coviewing adult who offers comments and interpretations of content improves children's learning from educational programs such as Sesame Street and Mister Roger's Neighborhood (Ball & Bogatz, 1970; Colder-Bolz, 1980; Collins, 1983; Friedrich & Stein, 1975; Salomon, 1977; Watkins, Calvert, Huston-Stein, & Wright, 1980). In addition, adult mediation can enhance children's understanding of characters and events in action/adventure programs (Collins, Sobol, & Westly, 1981) and can modify children's attitudes toward violence in those same action/adventure programs (Colder-Bolz, 1980; Colder-Bolz & O'Bryant, 1978). In tests of the effects of mediation on children's responses to commercials, researchers found that mediation can make children feel more positive towards non-traditional sex roles (Colder-Bolz, 1980) and can counteract the undesirable effects of television commercials themselves (Prasad, Rao, & Seikh, 1978). Finally, when children are exposed to frightening scenes in children's programs such as The Wizard of Oz, mediation can serve to soothe them (Cantor & Wilson, 1984).

The above-mentioned experiments suggest that adult mediation has a significant impact on children's knowledge of and attitudes towards a variety of topics. However, the experimental evidence supporting the effects of adult mediation is limited in two ways. First, most of the experiments dealing with mediation have used young children. While some survey research has examined the effects of mediation on older children and young adolescents (e.g., Austin, 1993; Dorr et al., 1989), experimental work on these older children has not been conducted. With the exception of a study by Colder-Bolz (1980), in which 11-year-olds were included, the mediation experiments have focused on either preschoolers (Ball & Bogatz, 1970; Colder-Bolz & O'Bryant, 1978; Collins, 1983; Friedrich & Stein, 1975; Salomon, 1977; Watkins et al., 1980) or early elementary school children till the age of nine (Cantor & Wilson, 1984; Colder-Bolz, 1980; Collins et al., 1981; Prasad et al., 1978; Watkins et al., 1980). It is important to investigate whether the beneficial effects of adult mediation can be generalized to older children and young adolescents, because it is possible that the adult mediation strategies demonstrated to be effective for younger children do not hold for older children and young adolescents. It is possible, for instance, that the impact of adult mediation on younger adolescents is less than on younger children, because adolescents are more concerned with the opinions of their peers than with the opinions of adults (Lapsley, 1991).

The evidence of the effects of adult mediation is also limited in that most mediation experiments have covered only certain kinds of content. This content has included educational shows that typically attract a preschool audience (Jordan, 1997), action/adventure programs that also typically attract children (Miller, 1996), TV movies such as The Wizard of Oz that are aimed at children, and commercials that occur incidentally in the programs that children watch. …

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