Children's Media Use and Responses: A Review of the Literature, 2007


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Date published: July 2007

Researchers: School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington


  • Children are overlooked as resourceful participants with opinions, ideas and perspectives in the research and policy arena
  • BSA has recognised the relevance and importance of research not just concerning children but also involving them
  • Examined four major aspects of children and media: physical access, selection and ways of using media, social contexts of media use, and responses to media accessed and used


  • Observational field research, experimental studies, qualitative interview and focus group research, surveys, and studies


Children’s media access and use

  • Children are also demonstrating complex patterns of multitasking in media use
  • There is a concern about the equity of media access, content, and representation in families in lower socio-economic groups
  • Interactivity of new media suggests positive potential for helping children fine-tune cognitive skills, and offers ways of helping children to be when interacting with media
  • Needs to tackle the complex and challenging area of elaborating knowledge and understanding of how children manage the web of possible interactions and uses that new media presents

Social contexts of media use

  • Children and young people often use media in the company of others – with families in the lounge, siblings in a bedroom, or with friends
  • As much as media facilitates social interaction, social interaction can also facilitate media use
  • The place that television and other media equipment have in a home depends on family structure and demographics, a range of practical and moral issues and by how families organise their space and their time

Children’s media responses

  • Ways children respond to media are complex and influenced by factors like experience, culture, social environment, age, and gender
  • Children’s responses to violent or frightening material, or to sexual content, cannot be assumed to be negative or harmful
  • New media, through inter-connectivity and access to global content, magnifies the potential for children to be exposed to disturbing or sexually explicit material
  • Dispels notions of television as an ‘ogre’ adversely affecting and influencing children
  • Relationship between children’s ‘work’ and leisure accent the positive ways in which children engage with television material
  • Agree with other researchers that children are active agents in their relationships with media and bring with them a host of skills and knowledge
  • The challenge is to study – in an interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological fashion – how children’s cognitive, social, and ecological development interfaces with their media use, access, and responses