The Effect of Media on Children - Final Friday, March 31,...

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Final Friday, March 31, 2006 The Effect of Media on Children: a methodological assessment from a social epidemiologist By: J. Michael Oakes, PhD Assistant Professor Division of Epidemiology & Community Health Population Research Center University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN, USA For: Workshop on Media Research Methods and Measures March 2-3, 2006 National Academies of Science National Research Council Board on Children, Youth and Families Address correspondence to: Dr. Michael Oakes Epidemiology & Community Health University of Minnesota 1300 South 2nd Street Minneapolis, MN 55454 Email: oakes@epi.umn.edu Voice: 612.624.6855 Fax: 612.624.0315
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ABSTRACT In an effort to help advance it, this report considers the accumulating body of media research with children from a social epidemiological perspective. I am specially concerned with comparing and contrasting the types of research designs, standard measures and modeling frameworks used in media studies to those used in (social) epidemiology and prevention research more generally. Overall, the state of research on the effect of various media on outcomes in children is robust and promises to be on par with the epidemiological and biomedical research on the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Despite enormous difficulties, measures used in media research, be they exposure or outcome, appear well-conceived and credible, though more work on their evolution and validity in young children and field studies is suggested. The principal measurement deficiency lies in the measurement of potential confounders and effect modifiers. With respect to research designs, media research is again robust due to its use of lab-based experiments and field surveys. Principal deficiencies include neglect of effect- modification by recognized social groupings, contextual influences and social interaction. Substantial practical benefits may come from the implementation and evaluation of intervention programs, especially group-randomized trials. As for analyses, the principal weakness appears to be in extending causal inference into observational field studies. 1
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I. INTRODUCTION This report considers media effects research, principally conducted by academic communication and (developmental) psychology scholars, from the perspective of a social epidemiological methodologist somewhat unfamiliar with the literature. The goal is to offer a fresh perspective on the accumulating body of research so as to advance it. To this end, this report is especially concerned with comparing and contrasting the types of research designs, standard measures and modeling frameworks used in media studies with children to those used in (social) epidemiology and prevention research more generally. I do not consider any direct physiological media effects that may be associated with, say, electromagnetic fields, or injuries related to mechanical accidents or sitting positions. A comment on social epidemiology may be helpful. Epidemiology is the study of
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The Effect of Media on Children - Final Friday, March 31,...

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