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Blog Connected Kids - A German study in brief Published: 17 Apr 2023

Growing up in a changing media environment

The consequences of (deep-) mediatization processes and changing media environments have become an increasingly discussed topic over the last years. How such new environments impact definitions of inter-personal boundaries and connections has therefore also come into focus of research on youth and digital media, as it is clear that mediatisation processes also shape children’s media use and thus their socialization processes.

In the focus: media and family relationships


The qualitative longitudinal study Connected Kids: Socialization in a changing media environment, a cooperation between the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI), aims to examine children’s individual media practices, their media repertoires and media-surrounded negotiation processes between children and their social domains. A total of 32 families from northern and southern Germany, divided into two cohorts, participated in so far two survey waves. The results allow to draw cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons, as well as conclusions about the impact of deep-mediatization (Hepp 2020) on families and the socialization of children are published in Kammerl, Lampert, and Müller (2022).

Getting a grip on the impact of mediatisation on family life  

Three different methods were used to appropriately examine research questions of whether there are temporal changes in media use, how it develops with life course transitions, shapes socialization processes of social domains and how children handle newly emerging challenges. At first, qualitative interviews with children were held. Children were asked to comment on their personal media repertoire, practices and topics which come along with the media they use. The interviews also included a picture-laying technique, assisting to get children talking and classifying the different media according to their personal relevance. Following the children’s interviews, parents were also qualitatively interviewed. They reflected on their children’s and families' media practices and the results from their children’s interviews. The third method asked the families to reenact typical media use situations, which were documented photographically.

As expected, the study’s results show how media repertoires of children differed within the cohorts, among other reasons, due to the children’s age. Media-related interests also changed in the course of age and time. In using different types of media, children automatically gain new and vital skills for their (future) media usage. The increased and differentiated usage is based on parents' increased understanding of their children’s practices, characterised by more freedom in self-determined use.

Media-related negotiation processes were dominantly found in proximity-distance relations and power relations. Proximity with regard to media use can be established through mutual media interests and practices. At the same time, different interests through self-determined media use can actively lead to an expression of the urge to distance from others and hence to distancing relations. 

Finally, the most common regulations of parents were detected. These can be categorised into time-related rules, setting content restrictions, and regulating access to specific devices and content. These regulations were subject to conflicts and discussions within the social construct family.

Connected Kids highlights the importance of taking a differentiated look at the abovementioned issues. The results show how early media-based negotiation processes start and impressively characterize interpersonal relationships. In addition, the economic dimensions of children’s media use should not be disregarded, as children serve as new commercial targets for companies. Thus, it is even more essential to mediate and teach children skills handling the wide range of media-related practices and opportunities.

If you want to know more about the study, you can find a brief summary of the book publication in English here.

  1. Hepp, Andreas. 2020. Deep mediatization. Key Ideas in Media and Cultural Studies. London, New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

  2. image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Kammerl, R., Lampert, C., Müller, J. (2022)(Hrsg.). Sozialisation in einer sich wandelnden Medienumgebung Zur Rolle der kommunikativen Figuration Familie [Socialization in a Changing Media Environment. On the Role of the Communicative Figuration Family]. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

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(Guest) authors

Paulina Domdey is Junior Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI). She joined the Conkids team in 2021 and coordinates the study in Hamburg.

Clara Fussan is Student Assistant at the HBI. She studies Media and Communications at Hamburg University and is the newest (and youngest) member of the Conkids team.

Dr. Claudia Lampert has been a senior researcher at the HBI for many years and has led several projects on children and young people's online use. Together with Rudolf, she is also the co-ordinator of the Conkids project.

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