How do children respond to TV and movies?


nemo_studyIs watching TV or movies good or bad for youth? While the question might seem simple, the answer is not. Sometimes films and TV programs positively affect youth, yet other times they can lead to more negative consequences. While media content certainly matters, researchers also believe that how we respond to content matters too.  During the first two weeks of August, CcaM researchers are working with children and parents at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam to understand these responses.

You know the drill: you are watching a movie and suddenly your heart beats faster and your palms get sweaty. Or maybe you watch an emotionally powerful scene and suddenly find yourself teary-eyed and deeply emotional.  But this doesn’t happen to everyone.  Some people have stronger reactions to media content than others.  The same movie scene that made you teary-eyed may have had little influence on your viewing partner.  And as with adults, these individual differences in response likely influence the strength of media effects among youth as well. The question is: which youth respond most strongly to media content, and why?

Communication scientist and CcaM researcher Karin Fikkers is trying to answer this question.  In a new study running from August 1st through August 14th at the NEMO Science Museum, Fikkers and her colleagues (Dr. Jessica Piotrowski & Professor Patti Valkenburg) are working with children and their parents to investigate responses to media.  They are doing this through a combination of more traditional self-report measures (i.e., questionnaires) as well as using devices to measure heart rate and skin conductance as children view different media clips.  And parents are playing a role, too, by answering questions about their child’s personality and background. Using this combination of data from parents and children, CcaM hopes to make important inroads into our understanding of how youth respond to media content.

One week in – the study is already proving to be quite successful. More than 250 enthusiastic children and parents have participated, with the list of participants quickly growing.  Many thanks to all that have participated thus far. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this study and sharing these findings with both parents and researchers. 

For more information about this project, contact CcaM at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Dr. Fikkers directly. 

[Note: this story was originally prepared in Dutch by UvA Persvoorlichting. It was translated and edited by CcaM director J. Piotrowski.  A copy of the original story can be found here.]

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