The Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 1, Spring 2008
Media technology is an integral part of children’s lives in the twenty-first century. The world of electronic media, however, is changing dramatically. Television, until recently the dominant media source, has been joined by cell phones, iPods, video games, instant messaging, social networks on the Internet, and e-mail.
Why Should We Care about Children’s Media Use? American children are heavily exposed to media. Most have television and radio in their homes, and half have a television in their bedrooms. Also widespread are the Internet, video games, cell phones, and iPods. Growing numbers of children are joining social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace. Children, particularly adolescents, have almost constant access to media—often without adult supervision. America’s young people spend more time using media than they do on any single activity other than sleeping. The pervasiveness of electronic media in the lives of children makes it important for policymakers, educators, parents, and advocates to know what research shows and what questions remain unanswered about how America’s youth use electronic media and how it affects them. Some observers believe that media technology is helping American children become better educated, more socially connected, and better informed than any previous generation. Others fear that it is a hazard for vulnerable children—exposing them to advertising, violent or pornographic images, and encounters with strangers. Research on these questions is uneven. Analysts have amassed a vast amount of solid information on older technologies such as television and movies, but studies on newer technologies are far fewer in number and more speculative in their findings.
Focus of the Volume This volume examines the best available evidence on whether and how exposure to different media forms is linked to child well-being. Contributors to the...