New research in Communication Research uncovers a surprising exception to the typical correlation between TV viewing and decreased self-confidence.
PROBLEM: When kids aren't in school, there's a good chance they're sprawled on their couch living vicariously through the characters they watch on TV. How do the depictions of ethnicity and gender they see affect their self-esteem?
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison surveyed 396 white and black preadolescent students in communities in the Midwest. Rather than look at the effect of particular shows or genres, they focused on the correlation between TV time in general and self-esteem over a yearlong period. They controlled for age, body satisfaction, and baseline self-esteem in their analysis.
RESULTS: TV time was significantly related to children's self-esteem. More precisely, television exposure predicted a decrease in self-esteem for black boys, white girls, and black girls as well as an increase in self-esteem among white boys. On average, the black children in the study also spent an extra 10 hours a week in front of their TV sets.