Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 September 2009
The telecommunications revolution of the twentieth century has created a new environment for our children. Radio, television, movies, videos, video games, and computer networks have assumed central roles in socializing our children while parents may have lost influence. For better or worse, the mass media have an enormous impact on our children's values, beliefs, and behaviors. No examination of middle childhood environments can be complete without understanding the influences of the mass media.
Of course, it is beyond the scope of this chapter to review all of the effects that the mass media have on youth in middle childhood. Excellent recent reviews of media effects on children are available (Anderson et al., 2003; Comstock & Paik, 1991; Huston & Wright, 1997; Palmer & Young, 2003; Singer & Singer, 2001). Instead, in this chapter, we will first elaborate the theory that has developed to explain the different ways in which media exert both short- and long-term influences on children's behaviors and cognitions. We will also review some of the characteristics of media presentations and some of the individual differences in children that have been shown to moderate these effects. Finally, we will review the empirical evidence on the effects of the exposure to the mass media in childhood on four dimensions of behavior and beliefs: (a) violent and aggressive behavior, (b) body image and obesity, (c) stereotype formation, and (d) learning and academic achievement.