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February 2, 2018

Adelphi Prof Explores Media’s Impact on Children

What is the effect of media on children? In her recently published book, Adelphi communications professor Margaret M. Cassidy looks at the fears of parents and the impact on children of multiple waves of new media up to today’s social platforms and video games.

Cassidy shares an anecdote of a minister in 1858 preaching on the dangers of new media to children “at a time and in a place filled with obstacles and perils.” The then-new media were dime-store novels and other emerging distractions and perils that accompanied the new mass press. The challenge continues today.

Cover of Book: Children, Media, and American History: Printed Poison, Pernicious Stuff, and Other Terrible Temptations“Americans love their media, and they invest a lot of hope in the transformative potential of new media” Cassidy writes in Children, Media, and American History: Printed Poison, Pernicious Stuff, and Other Terrible Temptations. “However, an intense protective impulse seems to kick in where children are concerned.”

The book also looks at the advent of photography, movies, and popular entertainment such as vaudeville, radio, comic books, rock and roll, and television. Cassidy notes that today’s so-called helicopter parents want to monitor exposure of their children on electronic devices, which make it more possible, but also adds to the level of parental anxiety — phenomena such as the recent “Tide Pod Challenge” comes to mind (though of course it blew up after the book was published).

“This is an important book,” Brown University historian Howard Chudacoff writes. “In a measured, engaging, and deeply-researched analysis, Margaret Cassidy brings much-needed historical and corrective context to our current anxiety over how American children interact with media.”

Cassidy, who chairs the University’s communications department, teaches the history of media as well as children and media, among other courses. Her previous book, published in 2004, was The Changing Media Environment of American Classrooms.

An excerpt of the new book is available online.

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