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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication


Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Five: Media Use and Effects in Childhood

← 92 | 93 → CHAPTER FIVE



The children’s media landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. The explosive growth of the Internet and digital media platforms has given rise to a new digital media culture. At the same time, media content itself has evolved dramatically. Today’s media are more complex, more arousing, and more fast-paced that ever before (e.g., Koolstra, van Zanten, Lucassen, & Ishaak, 2004). This has led researchers, health practitioners, and public policy makers to ask how these changes may be influencing children’s development. And while these questions are critical, it is also important to recognize that the relationship between media and child development is not unidirectional, but rather is bidirectional. As a result, not only should we ask how children’s media use influences their development, but also how children’s development may influence their media use. To that end, this chapter presents both sides of this discussion, paying explicit attention to several key theories that have been used to explain the reciprocal relationship between child development and media.


The media children use and prefer are predicted largely by their developmental capabilities. Children have a preference for media that can at least be partly ← 93 | 94 → incorporated into their existing framework, and show less preference for extremely simple or extremely complex stimuli (e.g., D. R. Anderson & Lorch, 1983). This moderate-discrepancy hypothesis (Valkenburg & Cantor, 2000) predicts that...

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