Watching TV with Your Child: A Discussion with Amy Franzini | TEDxWidenerUniversity – Video

Watching TV with Your Child: A Discussion with Amy Franzini | TEDxWidenerUniversity – Video

In this TEDxWidenerUniversity talk titled “Should you watch TV with your child?” Amy Franzini, a communication studies professor and researcher, shares her insights on children’s television and its impact on kids. As a researcher who analyzes children’s television content to understand its influence on our culture, Amy emphasizes the importance of being mindful of what children are exposed to on television.

Amy discusses how the accessibility of television has drastically increased over the past two decades, with various streaming services offering a plethora of programming options for children. She acknowledges that parents have valid concerns about the potential harms of media and its influence on their children’s behavior.

While research has linked excessive screen time to cognitive issues in children, Amy also highlights the importance of focusing on the quality of media rather than just the quantity. She suggests that parents should consider the values and behaviors that television shows are teaching their children and emphasizes the role of media in shaping children’s personal identity and social relationships.

Amy also introduces the concept of uses and gratifications theory, which explores how children use media for diversion, personal relationships, personal identity, and surveillance. She shares her research on tween television programs featuring characters with double identities and the impact of such shows on children’s personal development.

Ultimately, Amy recommends that parents approach television as a tool and partner in their children’s socialization, rather than viewing it as solely harmful. She encourages parents to be mindful of the quality of media their children consume and to recognize the potential positive influences of television on their development.

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Author Video Description

Television can be a powerful tool for caregivers to help children navigate self-identity, relationships, and independence. Co-viewing with children can foster bonds and create avenues of discussion. Dr. Amy Franzini studies the representations of children, childhood, parents, and parenting in popular media. She has recently finished writing a book, Secret Identities and Double Lives on Tween TV, that explores how the trope of secret identities on live-action sitcoms targeted to tweens provides a space to explore identity and relationship issues.

Dr. Amy Franzini studies the representations of children, childhood, parents, and parenting in popular media. She has presented her research regularly at the Popular Culture/American Culture Association national conferences and Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture/American Culture Association conferences. Dr. Franzini’s work has been published in several journals, and she has chapters included in Common Sense: Intelligence as Presented on Popular Television and Fleeting Images: Portrayals of Children in Popular Culture. Her forthcoming book, Secret Identities and Double Lives on Tween TV, explores how the trope of secret identities on live-action sitcoms targeted to tweens provides a space for characters to explore identity and relationship issues, which in turn enables tween audiences to consider those same subjects. Dr. Franzini incorporates her research into her teaching in courses such as Media & Children, Visual Literacy, and Communication Theory. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

My name is Amy franzini and I get paid to watch television wait what there’s a job for that sign me up right well that’s not my full job I’m a communication studies professor and researcher and what I research is children’s television in order to understand what television

Content can tell us about our culture I need to watch a lot of TV and over the past 20 years that I’ve been doing this the amount of television available to consume has increased exponentially and is more widely available than ever when I first started doing this research I

Would need to record programs on my VCR these are now almost obsolete even 10 years ago I would need to proactively program my DVR or purchase entire series on a DVD today I can find entire plethora of programming on Netflix um Disney plus Paramount plus Max Hulu prime Apple TV

On all these streaming services I can find programs that are available currently and programs that I watched when I was a child and as easy as it is for me as a researcher to access these programs to analyze it’s just as easy for today’s children Twins and teens

It’s no surprise that this is worrying and concern turning to parents parents are worried that their children are going to be exposed to content that’s harmful or encourages bad behavior for example let me describe an episode of a program currently airing on peacock the main character a seven-year-old boy has babysitter come

To this house while his parents go out to the movies but he sneaks out and goes to the movies himself now this isn’t Behavior we want our children modeling is it especially a seven-year-old but while we can see this show on peacock today it originally aired in 1959 that seven-year-olds name was

Dennis the Menace I use this example to make a point media has always been a concern for parents parents want the best for their children but it’s not just that from the time a child is born their primary caregivers are their main source of so social modeling once they go to

School peers are added into the mix and from the time they start consuming media it plays a role in socialization as well parents no longer have soul control and that can be scary and unsettling in addition parents are receiving messages about the harms of media from many different sources

They’ll hear about it from their peers and parents they’ll read about it or hear about it from their kids teachers or their children’s doctors and they’ll hear about it from the media itself parents are afraid of screwing up and making a lifelong impact on their children but as a media researcher and a

Parent I suggest that we need to relax and remember that like anything that’s human created television is a tool and like any tool it can be used for good and evil and all that lies in between in fact television can be a power powerful partner for parents to help their kids

Figure out who they are and what they want to become before I continue let me acknowledge that caregivers concerns are valid as I just said they’re receiving messages from multiple camps their parents will regail them from Tales from back in their day and fellow caregivers

Might tell them that oh I don’t let my kid watch that on television the media itself will provide accounts of the risks of media in parenting magazines websites sites blogs and on social media in these media accounts they might reference media research that reports correlations or connections between

Watching media and certain behaviors but it needs to be understood in context I’m not suggesting that we let our children watch TV all day every day but I am suggesting that we use television as a tool to help us as parents as I mentioned parents have had the same

Concern for Generations which connect next to our fear of things we can’t control research offers us some control a 2018 study that was published in the Lancet found that children aged 8 to 11 who watched more than the recommended screen time of two hours a day also scored lower on cognitive

Assessments as a parent we might think okay if I don’t let my kid watch more than two hours a day of Television they’re not going to have any cognitive issues that’s not necessarily true while there are many studies like this that focus on the quantity of children’s

Television there are fewer that focus on the quality of it many of the studies that do focus on the quality of children’s television looks at what’s called pro-social Media or behaviors that help others with a quintessential example being Sesame Street many of these studies will look at the relationship between watching pro-social

Programs and exhibiting pro-social behavior so if my child watches Sesame Street are they more likely to share with another child but it’s really hard to find true causal relationships between the media and behaviors both good and bad now I’m simplifying a semester’s worth of research methods here but in order to

Show a true cause and effect relationship we need to show that the thing that we think is causing the behavior in this case television was the only thing that could be causing that behavior and and that behavior wasn’t there before television was introduced so you can imagine how hard that could

Be to do with television now don’t get me wrong I am no way saying that television does not influence children’s values and behaviors of course it does today’s children are surrounded by media media peers and parents are influential in the socialization of children and peers and parents are also surrounded by media so

It’s omnipresent in our children’s lives so I suggest that we need to really focus on the quality of media rather than simply the quantity I’m using the term quality Loosely here quality doesn’t mean that we need to be watching all PBS or National Geographic shows rather what might television shows be

Offering to our children what might they be teaching them about the world about others about themselves like research theories can help us to understand what’s going on with the media there are certain theories that um focus on how active or not active children and really

All of us are in our media use and what we might get out of the media one such theory is called uses and gratifications Theory by katson blumler they suggest that we use media to get something out of it the four categories that these uses and gratifications fall under are diversion personal relationships

Personal identity and surveillance surveillance connects to our need to know what’s going on in the world an example of diversion might be if a child is feeling stressed out at school and they come home and they watch a superhero cartoon to escape for personal relationships children might use certain

Programs as Social Capital to talk to other children about or they may form what’s called parasocial relationships parasocial relationships are these one-sided relationships with characters celebrities sport figures and influencers they’re relatively risk-free because the other person doesn’t know that you exist but they still form a connection so a current example for this

Would be Taylor Swift fans right so Taylor Swift fans obviously feel connected to each other and they also feel connected to Taylor even though she doesn’t know that they exist for personal identity this use and gratification would address a if somebody was felt an identification with a character or aspiration towards that

Character so if we use Taylor Swift again not only do they feel connected to Taylor but they might want to be like her when they get older my most recent research um has focused on this personal identity idea I had been exploring tween television programs and noticed that a

Lot of these programs featured characters that were leading Secret Lives or double identities so I analyzed 11 of these programs um to see what was going on these programs featured characters who were leading double lives as witches Wizards superheroes pop stars villains and spies at first glance it might seem

Like these programs were popular with twins because of these roles what tween hasn’t pretended that they were a witch or Wizard or superhero or pop star or felt like they were a villain or a spy at one point in their life but as I looked deeper I found that there was

More going on all these character characters were dealing with the idea of living with a secret identity in order to explore this even further I did a deep dive into some Child Development theories to see what was going on at this particular time in children’s life

The first theory that I looked at was a theory called possible selves by Marcus and nurus this Theory explores how children might be looking at or exploring their possible self which looks at not only what they fear they might become or what they want to become

But also what they might become so this seemed to click with my idea of these Secret Lives and double identities but what I found was that even long established theories of Child Development such as P’s stages of cognitive development or Ericson stages of psychosocial development all dealt with issues that children were dealing

With at this time in the stage in life the stage in life was such an interesting time when children are moving from childhood into adolescence and these shows mirrored a lot of what was going on issues of figuring out power and morality building and maintaining friendships initial Explorations into romantic

Relationships um family relationships and of course the one that dealt with this idea the most finding and revealing one’s true self let me share an example from Just One of the programs that I looked at villains of Valley View this program originally debuted in the summer

Of 2022 and it features a family of villains who had to leave their lives as villains and assimilate into the town of Valley View now most episodes would feature the comedic situations that this type of situation would present but when looked at as a whole there was a lot

More going on characters were figuring out issues of morality what’s right what’s wrong um building friendships and connecting as a family and it’s not like all of a sudden the characters were good and isn’t that what adolescence is like learning values from our parents and seeing how that plays out with our peers

Trying messing up and trying again and this was just one of the 11 programs that I looked at all of the programs that I looked at explored some of these main issues that people were dealing with at this specific time in life finding issues of power and maintaining relationships with family and

Friends the more I looked at these programs the more I was struck by the opportunity to use these programs as a tool for parents to help our children as we figure out who they are and who they want to become I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of co- viewing or

Joint media engagement joint media engagement is just a fancy way of saying watching TV together and research shows that the more that we watch together the more meaningful that content will be I can share my own anecdotal experience um co- viewing so my co-viewing as in the

Past 20 years as a parent has ranged from watching Sesame Street and Blu clu with my oldest son when he was a toddler to watching Marvel shows with him today and in between these bookends of programs are multiple Sports programs that we watched with both my sons um but

Many programs that I watch together with my entire family such as Modern Family Brooklyn 99 and most recently only murders in the building sometimes the takeaways from these co- viewing are something really tangible like when my kids were little and they watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS Kids and

When we would cross the street they might quote Daniel Tiger’s mom to say we need to stop and listen to stay safe or it could be something just casual like when I watch uh I Carly with my 9-year-old daughter and talk about situations that some of the characters

Are going to be put into these chats are short and casual but still impactful but for the most part much of my co- viewing and Joint media engagement with my family was and is just simply being together and enjoying laughter and that’s the memories that I

Want my children to have and that I cherish my exploration into double lives and secret identities is just one type of Trope on one type of program targeted to one type of audience but it suggests that if we intentionally watch shows together we can use this as a growth

Tool rather than fearing television as something dangerous caregivers let’s treat television as our partner rather than fearing it as the enemy if we can use this incredible tool to our advantage we should use this tool to help us to create a culture of connection and Exploration with our children thanks so much for

[Applause] listening

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Video “Should you watch TV with your child? | Amy Franzini | TEDxWidenerUniversity” was uploaded on 01/14/2024 to Youtube Channel TEDx Talks