The social implications of children's media use
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This study examined the relations between children’s media use and the time they spend with their friends as well as their social behaviors. Considering the displacement hypothesis as the primary perspective in this area, this study evaluated the tenets of this hypothesis and put forth four alternative hypotheses. Issues of media’s social context, content, and relations to structured social events were considered in order to challenge the assumptions of displacement. A sample of 1,951 children ages 2 to 12 from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement was used. This nationally representative dataset includes measures of children’s behaviors and time diaries that provide a record of how and with whom children spent their time. Television and video games titles from these diaries were coded for violent content. For some age groups, television viewing was found to be related to less time spent with friends and more problematic social behaviors. However, when viewing was separated into violent and non-violent content, only violent television predicted worse social outcomes. Displacement is an insufficient explanation for these relationships. Analyses considering the social context of media use found that older children spent a higher percentage of their media use time with their friends. The more time children spent coviewing media with their friends, the more time they spent with their friends in other activities. For 9- to 12-year-olds, sharing television and game play experiences with siblings was related to lower levels of peer integration. A unified model that summarizes the role of media in children’s social lives is presented. A speculative process is put forth where violent media use is seen as influencing aggressive behavior that leads to social isolation. In turn, children who are isolated view more television and more violent content. Sharing media with friends is seen as an indication of healthy friendships, while co-using media with siblings is positively linked to social isolation. The correlational nature of these results necessitates further testing of this model.