COM370 Mass Media and Consumer Culture in the Lives of Children and Teens

Course Overview and Objectives:

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the major debates surrounding the role of media in the lives and development of children and teens. The course is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of how children and adolescents interact with and are affected by the mass media. We will examine the ways in which mass media influence the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors of children and adolescents.

We will define mass media broadly, to include both traditional media (television, movies, radio, magazines, books, and newspapers) and new media technologies (video games, cell phones, the Internet, and specific types of web content such as social networking sites). We will conceptualize children and teenagers as covering the ages between infancy and early adulthood. We will study this segment in terms of 1) their consumption of mass media and 2) their membership in a post-industrial consumer society.

The course is divided into two sections. The first section helps students develop a foundation of knowledge about child development, social construction of childhood, children’s media industries, theories of media effects and patterns of media use. The second section will cover the role of mass media in several specific contexts, including advertising, stereotypes, violence, gender, learning, entertainment, social relationships and sexuality.

This course is designed to help students achieve the following objectives:

  • To become familiar with the ways young people use and understand different mass media in different contexts, paying attention to both the potentially harmful and positive effects of media consumption
  • To understand the development of children and teenagers as active participants in contemporary consumer society
  • To distinguish among the different theoretical approaches to media effects
  • To understand the various methods scholars use to study media effects on children
  • To understand (and analyze the implications of) the particular roles different mass media play in the development, socialization, and learning of the young
  • To gain experience in presenting to groups, and responding to groups

Click to download the syllabus and reading list.

Sample Assignments:

  1. Response papers: Response Paper W6.1Response Paper W7.1Response Paper W11.1
  2. Uses & Grats assignment
  3. Discussant responsibilities