21st century media, fame, and other future aspirations: A national survey of 9-15 year olds


Past research found that messages in popular television promote fame as a top value, while social media allow anyone to reach broad audiences (Uhls & Greenfield, 2011; Uhls & Greenfield, 2012). During a sensitive developmental phase, preteens are the largest users of media, consuming over seven-and-a-half hours a day, seven days a week, outside of school. A nationwide survey in the United States asked 315 youth (M = 12 years; range: 9 -15 years) about their media habits as well as their aspirations for the future. Participants’ answers about their future goals clustered around two factors, representing individualistic, self-focused and collectivistic, other-focused aspirations. Fame, image, money and status were items in the former; helping others in need, helping family, and living near family were items in the latter. Watching television and using a social networking site each predicted self-focused aspirations, above and beyond the influence of control variables of age and maternal education, while the two media activities together predicted a larger portion of the variance than either alone. Collectivistic, other-focused aspirations were associated with nontechnology activities, most of which had an important social component. The implication is that individualistic, self-focused aspirations are related to 21st century media, whereas more collectivistic, other-focused aspirations are related to nontechnology activities, particularly those with a social component.

technology, social media, values, preteens, fame, self
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.

Eleni Zgourou

Author photo Eleni Zgourou, M.A., is a Ph.D student in Education at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). She studies how culture and parenting practices influence child development and academic achievement during early childhood. Before she moved to North Carolina she was a research assistant at the Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles at UCLA, where she worked on projects examining the influence of digital media use on youth development and values.

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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