Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Perceived Media Influence and Efficacy as Predictors of Caregivers' Protective Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Perceived Media Influence and Efficacy as Predictors of Caregivers' Protective Behaviors

Article excerpt

Parents and caregivers have become increasingly concerned with the nature and effects of certain television content on children. However, reactions to these concerns vary. Sometimes caregivers engage in mediation to try to ensure that their own children will not be harmed, in other cases, they advocate forms of censorship, perhaps because they are more concerned with shielding others' children from harm. Each "protective behavior" may reflect a unique combination of beliefs regarding (a) the kind of content in question, (b) the audience's vulnerabilities to the content, (c) their own ability to engage in the response, and (d) the response's likely success.

We have borrowed the term "protective behavior" from Rogers' (1975, 1983) protection motivation theory (PMT). According to PMT, our cognitive appraisal of threats can arouse in us a "protection motivation"--or a desire to protect ourselves-that will ultimately translate into protective responses (i.e., actually protecting ourselves). Although the theory has focused on the effect of fear appeals on behaviors that will protect the self (e.g., engaging in safe sex), we extended this conceptualization to include behaviors that caregivers use to protect their children from harmful television.

Caregivers have a number of options for dealing with the presence of harmful television content. They can talk to their children about television (by using "active mediation"), restrict their children's access to television (by engaging in "restrictive mediation"), or urge government or the television industry to restrict children's access by advocating the censorship of content. The more active responses, such as active mediation, seem to promote the most positive outcomes (Nathanson, 2001a); however, parents are more likely to use the more passive responses, such as restrictive mediation (Austin, 1993; Bybee, Robinson, & Turow, 1982).

The first question to pose is whether caregivers who engage in one form of protective behavior are likely to use other protection behaviors. Previous research has shown that parents who engage in active mediation also are likely to use restrictive mediation (Valkenburg, Krcmar, Peeters, & Marseille, 1999; van der Voort, Nikken, & van Lil, 1992). It is possible that caregivers who mediate would also support censorship, especially if they feel overburdened with mediation responsibilities and would appreciate some help. The relationship among the protective behaviors becomes apparent if we conceptualize child protection behaviors along their levels of implementation, from individual-level implementation (parental mediation) through social-level implementation (censorship). Indeed, researchers have linked a concept called "paternalism" to support for censorship (McLeod, Detenber, & Eveland, 2001), suggesting that censorship is the application of a caregiver's protection approach to a social level. In either case, we should expect that caregivers who support censorship should also engage in mediation.

H1: Active mediation, restrictive mediation, and support for censorship will be positively related to one another.

Predictors of Parental Protective Behaviors

Type of content. Although direct evidence is sparse, it seems that parents have different attitudes toward different types of media content. Austin, Bolls, Fujioka, and Engelbertson (1999) cited Gallup data which indicated that parents were concerned about violence, sex, and bad language on television. The Kaiser Family Foundation (1998) also revealed that approximately two thirds of parents are concerned about sex or violence on television, figures that have increased since they had examined this issue two years earlier.

Interestingly, the Kaiser study found that parents are not equally concerned about all "bad" content. Instead, they seem to differentiate among the various types of content and form separate judgments about each one. …

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