Caroline Roth-Ebner

University of Klagenfurt, Austria
Mediatized Childhood: Navigating the Opportunities and Risks in an Ever-Connected World
Tue 30 Jul

Caroline Roth-Ebner 01/01

Caroline Roth-Ebner is an associate professor at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria. Her primary research areas include mediatization processes across various domains, particularly the mediatization of childhood and office work. She investigates children and youth media usage and the commercialization and mediatization of childhood, focusing on qualitative research methods. She has contributed to discussions on children's media consumption environments and parental mediation, as evidenced by her publication in Communications in 2022. Her habilitation thesis in 2014 examined the mediatization of office work, while her doctoral thesis in 2007 explored youth perceptions of a TV casting show.

Mediatized Childhood: Navigating the Opportunities and Risks in an Ever-Connected World

Today, children are immersed in and exposed to media from the moment of their birth or even before (e.g., through ultrasound pictures shared on Social Media). Childhood under these circumstances can be termed a mediatized childhood, with media such as tablet computers, smartphones, and their applications being ubiquitous. Throughout childhood, media function not only as tools for communication and networking but also as status symbols, sources of orientation and means of self-representation. Consequently, they exert a significant influence on children’s identity formation. The effects of a mediatized childhood on the young are complex and contingent upon various contextual factors, with education being particularly noteworthy. Numerous studies have shown that the extent to which children benefit from media in their development often relies on their parents’ level of education. Depending on such circumstances, as well as situational factors, one and the same phenomenon can manifest both as an opportunity and a risk. For instance, while social media can foster social inclusivity by connecting people, it can also facilitate destructive communication, such as hate speech or cyberbullying. Media literacy, defined as the ability to use media in a responsible, safe, and self-determined way, is regarded as pivotal for maximizing benefits and mitigating harm. However, such competencies do not naturally develop through media usage alone. Children require active support and guidance in their media practices. This responsibility cannot be solely delegated to parents, who are indeed crucial role models and co-educators, but also demands heightened attention and prioritization on the political agenda.
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