Reliving childhood through different forms of media
A course in the media studies and production department discusses how different media outlets influence children.
by Tatyana Turner
“Media and Children,” a media studies and production course, allows college students to be kids again.
The course focuses on the media and its influence on children 13 years old and younger, said Sherri Culver, the associate professor of Media and Children on Main Campus.
“We spend time talking about the areas that parents and children advocates are most concerned with, such as violent content in video games, gender representations and stereotyping,” Culver said.
The writing-intensive course encourages students to step out of their own media preferences and look at what other audiences are watching.
“Students often think about the media they consume, the shows they love, the games they play, the apps they download, but they rarely think about other specific audiences,” Culver said. “Kids … still want to engage with creative and fun content just like we do.”
One topic the class delves into is how children rely more on technology, and the advantages and disadvantages of their dependence on devices today.
“I learned that children prefer to use their tablet or mobile apps for media instead of watching television,” said Chawntell Jeffrey, a senior media studies and production major.
“Today more kids are focused on apps,” said Alessia Colandrea, a senior communication studies major. “I think there should be more of a balance between technology and other things such as exercise.”
While there are drawbacks to technology in children’s lives, there are positives too—technology can be used for educational purposes. Culver, who is also the director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy, makes her students aware of the issues in schools today and how technology could be used to solve them.
“Some teachers want students to bring their smart phones in and play educational games in class, whereas other teachers will confiscate a phone if it is outside of a locker,” she said. “I work with teachers often and I try to encourage them to integrate technology with their teaching, and that is a difficult message because schools are telling children not to bring any technology to the class.”
“But more innovative education methods are saying that integrating media helps keep kids engaged,” she added.
Culver keeps her own students engaged by assigning technology-based homework, like playing a popular kids game and discussing whether the game is appropriate for children under a certain age.
Students must also write a major research paper that focuses on a current issue connected to children of a particular age range. Some of the topics this semester’s students will write about are “The Influence of Disney Princesses on Young Girls,” “Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles: Too Violent for Young Boys?” and “How Growing Up with Celebrities Can Impact Tween Identity Information.”
Culver said she enjoys teaching the course and believes it can help students in several different ways.
“It opens up other career possibilities and helps them think differently about the media they might create,” Culver said. “And of course, many of the students will become parents at some point in their lives and will need to consider how the media impacts their own children.”
“Kids love to learn, and there are some great programs on TV and online that can inspire learning outside of the classroom.”