From Television to Digital Media: The Shifting Paradigm of Parental Mediation

Project: Research project

Project Details


Emerging from a media effects paradigm, parental mediation theory explains how parents mitigate the negative effects of undesirable television content on children through active mediation, restrictive mediation, and co-viewing (Lin & Atkin, 1989; Nathanson, 1999; Valkenburg et al., 1999). However, as documented in the PI and Co-PI’s published meta-analysis, the effects of specific parental mediation strategies varied by media types as well as cultural contexts (Chen & Shi, 2019). Based on the meta-analytic findings, the current research project proposes shifting the paradigm of the parental mediation framework in the current digital media landscape and contextualizing the theoretical framework to better understand how parental mediation of digital media is practiced in the Asian context.

Digital media that deliver interactive and/or entertainment content, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, social television, and video games, have penetrated into children’s learning and social lives in an unprecedented manner. Such digital media have also largely complicated the family and home environment and posit serious challenges to parental mediation framework. Hence, this project suggests a paradigm shift of parental mediation to a “parental mediation of digital media” through reorienting the theoretical framework in terms of the following aspects:
From “one medium” to “multiple media” Parental mediation theory and its subsequent research has mainly considered how parental mediation of a single type of media (e.g., television, the Internet, or social media) is practiced. Yet, children today are adept at managing multiple digital devices, and their family media environment is complicated. The framework thus needs to consider the holistic and complex nature of the current family media environment and address how parents mediate children’s engagement within the multiple digital media landscape.
From “reducing harm” to “balancing risks and benefits” Protecting children from media risks is a primary component in parental mediation theory. It is unsurprising that parental mediation research has overwhelmingly focused on the deleterious effects of media. Yet, such an approach is insufficient to meet growing expectations of children’s digital literacy for learning and employment. To that end, the framework needs to explore how parents optimize children’s use of digital media to reduce the risks and more importantly to prepare them for the forthcoming smart city and future workplaces.
From “unidirectional socialization” to “bidirectional socialization” Parental mediation theory has its roots in socialization theory and mainly considers parents as agents for their children’ media socialization. Yet, emerging research has suggested a bidirectional socialization, which also means that children could be agents for parents’ media, especially digital media, socialization. Therefore, the theory should no longer consider children as objects of parental mediation but address the dyadic and collaborative nature of parental mediation of digital media.

Moreover, as parenting style and family communication patterns in the Asian context substantially differ from their counterparts in the Western cultures, it is critical to explore how Asian culture shapes the practice of parental mediation. As well, Asian governments have been committed to promoting technological development and innovation. For example, the Singaporean government launched its Smart Nation initiative in 2019; the Hong Kong government released its Smart City Blueprint 2.0 in 2020; and the Mainland China government proposed a plan in 2020 to build the world’s largest and most sophisticated 5G network. Such aggressive plans in technology development in these countries has created environments which may also shape how parental mediation of digital media is take place.

In sum, this project plans to employ a dyadic approach, which will recruit parent-child dyads in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mainland China, for in-depth interviews (in Study 1) and a cross-national survey (in Study 2). By investigating parental mediation of digital media in three Asian locations, the current project presents ample opportunities to better contextualize parental mediation theory into the Asian cultural context, and to enhance the descriptive ability and explanatory power of the theory in the current age of digital media.
Effective start/end date1/01/2331/12/25


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