Date of Award

8-2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Julia A Malia

Committee Members

Priscilla Blanton, Mary Jane Moran, Ray Richardson, Deborah Tegano

Abstract

According to Gallup polls, the number of U.S. households owning televisions (TVs) went from 6% in 1949 to 90% in 1959 to 97% in 1966. Thus, persons born from 1960 to 1976 represent the first full TV generation in that they are the first members of society to grow up with television as a constant presence. The parents of this cohort vividly remember the advent of television and were themselves raised by parents who had no experience growing up with television. For the most part, the parents of those born since 1960 faced making decisions related to mediating television having had no experienced role models of their own. The question then arises: What did persons born after 1960 learn about dealing with television based on what their parents did and did not do in their own parenting? To the extent that feature films are aired on television, movie-viewing was included in this study as a phenomenological interest.

The process by which parents engage their children’s media viewing habits is referred to as mediation. Media literacy scholars typically refer to three types of mediation: (a) active mediation in which parents talk with their children about TV, (b) restrictive mediation in which time viewing and access to particular content are limited, and (c) co-viewing in which parents merely passively view with their children. One aim of active mediation is to promote critical thinking skills. For the purpose of this study, critical thinking is defined as the ability to (a) weigh information for accuracy, (b) identify artistic quality, and (c) identify intent of a message and underlying motivations of its producer(s). Another aim of mediation is to promote prosocial moral agency, prosocial behavior being defined as that which promotes fairness and the emotional and physical well-being of the widest portion of global society, and moral agency being the cognitive process of determining values related to prosocial decisions and implementation of behaviors that are consistent or inconsistent with these values.

This grounded theory study was conducted to understand the experiences of television and movie mediation within members of the first full TV generation both in terms of this cohort’s experience with television and movie mediation in their childhood experience and in terms of their mediation with their own children. The participants were chosen through a stratified convenience method. Out of immersion in the collected data, I developed a theory for explaining styles and methods of parental television and movie mediation that effectively promote children’s (a) critical analysis of the medium and its content and (b) moral agency.

Participants in this study reported childhood experiences with all the types of mediation. One key observation from the study is that the way participants adapted mediation in their own parenting arose out of the interaction between their level of affection for their parents and their level of approval of their parents’ style of mediation. A major finding was that participants expressed being overwhelmed by the array of choices available in contemporary television and movies and that this variety has led to a loss of a sense of anticipation and of an event nature of family media viewing. The conclusion from this observation is that contemporary families need to be more intentional in planning their viewing.

I dubbed the theory for mediation I developed the prosocial cognitive mediation theory, integrating Bandura’s social cognitive theory, some of its sub-schools, and Vygotsky’s social development theory, particularly the concept of the zone of proximal development. Another proposal arising from the data is the Mediatician Model of TV and movie mediation. This model compares parental planning of viewing to the activities of a dietician in preparing individualized diets that are healthy in terms of content and amount.

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