The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis


Recent proliferation of TV programming for the tween audience is supported on the Internet with advertising, fan clubs, and other online communities. These Internet tools expand TV's potential influence on human development. Yet little is known about the kinds of values these shows portray. To explore this issue, a new method for conducting content analysis was developed; it used personality indices to measure value priorities and desire for fame in TV programming. The goal was to document historical change in the values communicated to tween audiences, age 9-11, who are major media consumers and whose values are still being formed. We analyzed the top two tween TV shows in the U.S. once a decade over a time span of 50 years, from 1967 through 2007. Greenfield's (2009a) theory of social change and human development served as the theoretical framework; it views technology, as well as urban residence, formal education, and wealth, as promoting individualistic values while diminishing communitarian or familistic ones. Fame, an individualistic value, was judged the top value in the shows of 2007, up from number fifteen (out of sixteen) in most of the prior decades. In contrast, community feeling was eleventh in 2007, down from first or second place in all prior decades. According to the theory, a variety of sociodemographic shifts, manifest in census data, could be causing these changes; however, because social change in the U.S. between 1997 and 2007 centered on the expansion of communication technologies, we hypothesize that the sudden value shift in this period is technology driven.

tween, adolescence, TV, fame, content, media, values
Author biographies

Yalda T. Uhls

Author photo Yalda T. Uhls, MBA, Ph.D is a senior researcher at the Children’s Digital Media Center@LA, UCLA campus, as well as the Regional Director of Common Sense Media, a national non-profit that helps children, families and educators navigate the digital world. Yalda’s research focuses on how older and newer media impacts the social behavior of preadolescents. In addition to her peer-reviewed published research, Yalda has co-authored a chapter on the Internet for the Encyclopedia of Adolescence and writes for non-academic audiences in outlets such as HuffPost, UCLA’s PsychologyinAction and her own blog, IntheDigitalAge. Awards include UCLA’s Psychology in Action Award, for excellence in communicating psychological research to audiences beyond academia as well as the Dena Chertoff Graduate Service Award, UCLA and the Millard Madsen Distinguished Dissertation Award, UCLA. Prior to her academic career, Yalda spent over fifteen years as a senior entertainment executive and producer. Notable positions include Senior VP at MGM as well as consultant to Google LA, Disney Channel and Henson Pictures.

Patricia M. Greenfield

Author photo Patricia Greenfield, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UCLA and Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, is author of Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers (1984), subsequently translated into nine languages and released as a classic edition in 2014; coeditor of Effects of Interactive Entertainment Technologies on Development (1994); coeditor of Children, Adolescents, and the Internet: A New Field of Inquiry in Developmental Psychology (2006); coeditor of Social Networking on the Internet: Developmental Implications (2008); and co-editor of Interactive Technologies and Human Development (2012). Her empirical research on the developmental implications of interactive media has included action video games, massive multiplayer online role-playing games, teen chat rooms, social networking sites, and YouTube. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she has received the Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association (2010) and the Distinguished Contribution to Cultural and Contextual Factors in Child Development award from the Society for Research in Child Development (2013).

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