Children's Wellbeing in the Media Age: Multidisciplinary Perspectives from the Harvard-Australia Symposium, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Children's Wellbeing in the Media Age

Multidisciplinary Perspectives from the Harvard-Australia Symposium, 1st Edition

Edited by Elizabeth Handsley, Colin MacDougall, Michael Rich

Federation Press

272 pages

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Children, from infancy through adolescence, now spend more time consuming media content than they do in school, with parents or engaging in any activity other than sleep. Parents, educators, and policy-makers are concerned, confused and overwhelmed, since the media we use and how we use them influence virtually every aspect of our lives.

The Harvard-Australia Symposium on Media Use and Children’s Wellbeing dared to tackle the problem as a whole by convening psychologists with specialties in child development, violence, advertising, body image and sleep; a human ecologist; a filmmaker; a couple of ethicists; a librarian; a social worker and a nutritionist to join a paediatrician, a lawyer and a public health researcher to address the question of how media use influences children’s wellbeing. The project compared and contrasted disciplinary frameworks and methodologies used, and the strengths and limitations of each, to open up a conversation about how they might complement and synergise with each other. Participants expanded their horizons by breaking down the academic siloes and learning from one another. The discussion covered issues from sexualisation of children in the media, violent video games, social networking, food advertising, preschool television, the fashion industry and body image, to distressing content on the news.

The Symposium acknowledged that media are so integrated into our lives that we cannot fully understand or effectively address the health and development of digital natives with anything but an multidisciplinary approach. The resulting conversation was fascinating and energising, engaging readers from any background to appreciate the differences, the commonalities and the ways in which these diverse perspectives complement each other to develop strategies for maximising the benefits and minimising the risks of media use.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, Elizabeth Handsley Part I 2. Applying the Ecological Model of Human Development to the study of Media’s Effects on Children, David S Bickham 3. A Citizen-Child Lens on the Media, Health and Wellbeing, Colin MacDougall 4. An Action Research Model of Media Production, Alison Wotherspoon (in conversation with Elizabeth Handsley) Part II 5. (Applied) Ethics, Emma Rush 6. Bioethics, John McMillan 7. Paediatrics, Michael Rich 8. Social Work, AR Mubarak 9. Librarianship and Information Collection, Barbara Biggins 10. (Media) Law, Elizabeth Handsley 11. Public Health Nutrition, Kaye Mehta Part III 12. Developmental Psychology, C Glenn Cupit 13. The Study of Aggressive Behaviour, Wayne A Warburton 14. The Study of Marketing to Children, Julie Robinson 15. The Study of Body Image, Marika Tiggemann 16. Sleep Psychology, Sarah Blunden 17. Conclusion, Michael Rich.

About the Editors

Elizabeth Handsley is Professor of Law at Flinders University, where she teaches constitutional law and media law. Elizabeth has a special interest in media law for young audiences, and has published on classification of video games, advertising regulation and broadcasting policy.

She is the President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, a national community organisation that advocates for children’s interests in all debates on children and the media, including and especially violence and commercial exploitation. In this capacity she has contributed to public debate in a variety of fora, including formal reviews and inquiries and the mass media.

Colin MacDougall is Professor of Public Health and Executive member of the Southgate Institute of Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University and Honorary Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne. A major interest is exploring how children experience and act on their worlds. In 2011 Colin was visiting professor in children’s space and place research at University of Rennes 2 in France. He taught on children’s research in New Zealand; Hamburg and Stendhal in Germany; and in the European Master’s and French Public Health Programs. He co-convenes the Child Health Special Interest Group for the Public Health Association of Australia.

Michael Rich is Founder-Director of the Center on Media and Child Health dedicated to investigating, translating and innovating with media to optimise physical, mental and social-emotional health and development of children and adolescents. ‘The Mediatrician’ brings child health together with experience as a screenwriter-filmmaker to an online advice column on parenting healthy digital natives at

Associate Professor of Paediatrics and of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, Dr Rich has authored numerous research papers and paediatric practice policies on media effects and practices Adolescent Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he is seeing increasing numbers of young people with media-related health issues.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General