Poor Science Supports Media Effects

hulkMost of us think we’re experts on media.

And one reason is we believe seeing is believing.

Take violence, for example. Parents, teachers, psychologists, physicians—loads of folks–assume that what we see on television and in movies influences us.

And it makes sense, right? Sixty years ago researchers worried comic books would warp young minds and crusaders blamed comic books for poor grades, drug use, juvenile delinquency and homosexuality.

Comic books were burned and banished in the 1950s, the result of panic and poor science.

Turns out the science was pretty slim with little hard data to support media effects on behavior. The comic book scare was more a function of the personal values of the vocal opponents.

Media images and artifacts enabled crusaders to match their beliefs to the content, so, seeing was believing.

Underpinning the belief is that kids are blank slates—tabula rasa—upon whom media work their powers. Later, psychologists would reframe the paradigm from blank slate to rat, thanks to B.F. Skinner’s work with operant conditioning.

Fast-forward to current discussions over the role of television and children. An item in this week’s Oregonian that raises the issue of children and television viewing notes that scientists found mice exposed to overstimulation are more hyper than other mice.

Kids as rats.

Here’s the problem: there’s little evidence to support media effects on brain development and behavior.

The solution? Use your common sense. Don’t park your kid in front of TV for hours and hours. Use judgment with all media exposure, including computer and internet.

The most effective solution to temper media effects?

Talk to your kids.

Talk about what you’ve viewed together, including advertisements. Talking about movies, television, websites and commercials helps reveal the intentions that underpin programs and deconstructs the meanings behind the messages.

Read The Oregonian article at http://blog.oregonlive.com/themombeat/2012/11/tv_watching_for_kids_advice_–.html


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in Native Science, neuroscience, news bias, science, science communication, social media, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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