Blog Post: Mass Media and Children
Mass media is defined by Potter (2016) as the wide ranged use of communication used to reach a large number of people through outlets such as newspapers, television, radio, and otherwise. As simple as this definition might seem, the ideas behind mass media are prevalent in every day society. Hu, Zhu, and H. (2017) says that the current status quo of the world is more susceptible to the means and utilizations of media than ever before in history. Part of this is due to the abundance and availability of technology in a myriad of corners throughout the world. Our world is ruled by technology, and the general population relies heavily on technology as an everyday way of life. Corporations, homes, restaurants, airports, and a heavy mix of other establishments all rely on the Internet, radios, television and otherwise. The smattering of technology prevalent in the general population’s lives means that the media not only reaches a broader audience, but it plays a pivotal role in helping shape people’s lives, especially those of young children.
In order to better understand how mass media affects the population, an analysis of mass media and how it functions is necessary. According to Potter (2016), media in all forms, especially mass media, goes through what he describes as a life cycle pattern that helps define the reasoning and life span of media. Potter (2016) also tells us that this life cycle dictates the reasoning behind the changes and development of media over time. Five different stages are present in that life cycle.
The first stage is innovation. Potter (2016) teaches that innovation is more than just the creation of something. Innovation in mass media refers to the actual creation of more than just the advertised product, but also the conception of the mediums necessary to transmit the information. This stage of the life cycle has many facets that include the formation of the businesses that are essential in delivering those mediums and the actual messages themselves. Once successful, those innovations must then find a way to carry that message to the masses in a way that its reception is noted and retained.
The second stage is penetration. Potter (2016) states that penetration is the act of a group of people finally accepting and embracing a new medium. These new mediums must inherently appeal to the requirements of the mass audience. Once the necessity of the medium begins to fade, stage one must be reenacted to make headway for more innovations that would better suit the needs of the many.
The third stage is peak. After a medium has been accepted, embraced, and used reliably, it will inevitably peak. Potter (2016) describes this peak as the maximum amount of attention from users of the medium. Revenue, use, and acceptance of the new medium will be inexorably higher than all other mediums. Potter (2016) uses television from the 1990’s as an example, as it edged out movies, radio, and newspapers as the main source of entertainment and news.
The fourth and fifth stages are decline and adaptation. After an undefined amount of time, a newer medium might rear its head and cause the accepted medium to enter a decline. Potter (2016) says that the newer mediums do not necessarily lose use because of the messages it is sending, but simply because the newer medium is a better way to receive the content. When this happens, the declining medium must adapt to the needs of the many by creating new innovations or way it is used. Upon doing so, the older medium can create its own identity and begin flourishing in a different, but necessary, field.
Children and Mass Media
When asked to describe and further analyze advertisements geared towards children, my mind immediately shot toward a commercial for Weetabix Chocolate Cereal. In the YouTube video (2011), a young girl eats a bite of the overly sugary cereal. Upon taking a bite, the animals in her room come to life dance with her in a vibrant and skillful manner. When the dance and music ends, it is shown that the young girl has friends in the room that are astonished at her dancing abilities and the fact that the teddy bears came to life.
This advertisement does a dangerously effective job of appealing to the inner imaginations of children. According to Vandenbosch and Eggermont (2015), adolescents have a harder time suspending their beliefs and disbeliefs than adults. With that in mind, the advertisement markets a cereal, high in sugar and not nutrient dense, to children as a tool for becoming a skillful dancer. It tells a story of how eating the cereal can cause stuffed animals to animate and dance. Adults are able to enact media literacy and see the commercial as a fictitious marketing movement, but children would generally be unable to do so.
Children, according to Vandenbosch and Eggermont (2015), are unable to control the imaginative and impulsive side of their psyche. Because of this, advertisements, along with other forms of media, are able to play to that function of the child’s mind. Granted, the adults have to obtain the product for the children, but they can and will be fascinated by the prospect of what these advertisements offer.
Given that society has begun to revolve around technology, children are also delving into these forms of media. The question of whether society is doing an adequate job of protecting those young minds is apparent in the continued mass consumption of media in a plethora of forms unheard of in the past. Essentially, it is up to the parents to teach their children to extensively learn to filter certain aspects of the media. Advertisements, misleading ideas, and fallacies will continue to appear, ergo, society is less focused on protection and more focused on consumption. Each person must learn and decide for himself or herself whether the information we consume is meant for harm, good, or otherwise.
Hu, H., Zhu, J. J., & H. (2017). Social networks, mass media and public opinions.Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, 12(2), 393-411. doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1007/s11403-015-0170-8
Potter, W.J. (2016). Media Literacy (8th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.
Vandenbosch, L., & Eggermont, S. (2015). The interrelated roles of mass media and social media in adolescents’ development of an objectified self-concept: a longitudinal study. Communication Research, 43(8), 1116-1140. Retrieved from https://doi org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1177/0093650215600488
YouTube (2011, September 30). Weetabix chocolate dubstep cereal commercial [HD] [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbEy98llGRU