At CcaM, our integrative body of scholarship tackles a range of timely topics that in some way focus upon the entertainment experience of young people. Anchored in the paradigm of differential susceptibility, our Center employs a media-psychological perspective to broadly address questions associated with media effects and the entertainment media experience. To do this, we have a constantly-evolving series of projects which currently include EntertainMe!, Project AWeSoMe, CHILDROBOT, RoMCom, and digiSleep. CcaM scholars work collaboratively, and as such, they often find themselves working within more than one research domain.
All CcaM scholars approach questions with nuance – with a specific focus belief that differential susceptibity influences the selection, experience, and effects of media on young peope. This means understanding the role of disposition, development, and social factors in in all aspects of our work. This is core to who we are as a Center and runs through all of our work.
This approach has been significantly supported by two large funded projects, which together have allowed CcaM researchers to take a deep dive in the role of individual differences in understanding the media experience of today’s young people. Initially, this line of research was financially supported by an ERC-Advanced Grant awarded to Professor Patti Valkenburg in which a four-year longitudinal project (900 families in the Netherlands; two cohorts; 3-7 years old; 10-14 years old) was conducted to understand whether and how children may be susceptible to media effects – particularly in the context of aggressive behavior, ADHD symptoms, cognitive ability, prosocial behavior, and social-emotional development. Scholars associated with this work included Patti Valkenburg, Jessica Taylor Piotrowski, Helen Vossen, Karin Fikkers, Sanne Nikkelen, Maria Koutamanis, and Ine Beyens.
Since the ERC grant, this line of scholarship has been expanded as a result of the funded Consortium on Individual Development. The CID involves researchers from Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, University of Groningen, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen, and VU University Amsterdam. In this project, Patti Valkenburg and her postdoctoral team are continuing to ask why some children thrive and others do not, particularly as it relates to media content, with a specific focus on disposition and environment as relevant predictors for investigation.
At CcaM, our work focuses on the study of entertainment media - namely, how media entertainment is selected and the conditions that explain sustained use and effects. This research line aims to understand how, when, and why today’s entertainment media may meet the unique entertainment needs of young people alongside the outcomes of this use.
In recent years, scholarship in this area has investigated, for example: (1) how parents influence children’s entertainment experience, (2) how individual differences influece how children experience entertainment media content, (3) the motivations behind entertainment media use, and (4) how virtual reality offers a qualitatively different gaming experience for young people. Along with these questions, this area has also asked about the opportunities and consequences of entertainment media use. This has included outcomes such as: (1) online and offline behaviors (unhealthy food behaviors, sexual behavior and objectification, victimization, online-self presentation, aggressive behavior, prosocial behavior), (2) social-emotional development (e.g., empathy, wellness, self-esteem, ADHD) and (3) cognitive development (e.g., crystallized intelligence, fluid intelligence). A comprehensive review of these and related fields can be found in the book Plugged In: How Media Attract and Affect Youth – published (open access) by Patti Valkenburg and Jessica Taylor Piotrowski in Spring 2017.
In the coming years, this area of study will include an increasing focus on the effects digital entertainment space by asking – for example – how educational app design may influence learning effects, how social media may influence social-emotional development such as self-esteem, and the (numerous) opportunities of virtual reality across a range of entertainment domains. All CcaM scholars continue to contribute to this area of scholarship.
Why is it that social media use makes some adolescents feel happy while leaving others feeling blue? Project AWeSome (Adolescents, Well-being & Social Media) aims to answer this and other questions about the relationship between adolescents’ social media use and their well-being. Project AWeSome is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Universities of Amsterdam and Tilburg that launched in Fall 2018.
The project team consists of UvA and CcaM researchers Patti Valkenburg, Ine Beyens, Loes Pouwels and Irene van Driel together with Loes Keijsers of Tilburg University. The aim of the project is to unravel individual differences in the effects of social media use on various aspects of the wellbeing of Dutch youth. AWeSome’s person-specific paradigm will help to reveal which positive or negative consequences of social media use hold for which individual adolescents.
Project AWeSome incorporates theoretical approaches from the fields of communication science and developmental psychology and relies on intensive longitudinal data collection methods, including survey, experience sampling, and physiological measurements. Advanced statistical modelling techniques will be used to analyze the short- and long-term effects of social media use on the wellbeing of each individual adolescent.
Robots are becoming increasingly prominent in our society. They are no longer simply used to carry out practical tasks, but nowadays also engage in social interactions with people. Robots that can interact with people in a meaningful way are called ‘social robots’. Not only adults, but also children increasingly encounter social robots. To a child, such a robot can be a conversation partner, but also an educational tool. Because while relatively little is known about child-robot interaction, robots rapidly become more present in children’s lives. Therefore, the CHILDROBOT project aims to investigate the interaction between children and social robots.
The Romantic Mediated Communication (RoMCoM) team focuses on how new (entertainment) technologies affect romantic relationship initiation and functioning in general. In the context of relationship initiation, this line asks how young people use technology to establish and sustain relationships relationships. Following our work on dating app motivations, the next step will be to understand for whom and under which circumstances the mobile entertainment space - particularly dating apps - can enrich or endanger well-being.
The team is specifically interested in the specific functionalities of mobile dating apps that set it apart from already established ways of online dating. Even more, in the context of relationship functioning more generally, we want to understand which role haptic technologies might play. This research line will expand existing research on mediated communication by considering the role of haptic technologies that enable mediated inter-human touch. Mediated touch is among the newest additions to the (entertainment) technology landscape, and as such, we know little about how it will be experienced. Will mediated touch enhance feelings of closeness and intimacy? Can it buffer against stressful experiences? Who is drawn to the use of haptic devices as part of their daily communication pattern? All questions will be addressed using different methodological approaches, including qualitative work, survey research, measurement burst design, and experiments. This research line is directed by Sindy Sumter in collaboration with Laura Vandenbosch (KU Leuven).
Smartphones are among one of the most pervasive technologies that young people throughout the world have adopted for entertainment experience. And yet, at the same time, there is an increasing body of evidence that smartphones may have a detrimental influence on sleep - a critical behavior for healthy development during adolescence. Problematically, this evidence has ignored individual differences in development by focusing mainly on adults, lacks an interdisciplinary approach, and suffers from significant methodological limitations (e.g. heavy reliance on self-report data). Launched in Spring 2019, research in the digiSLEEP team will address these gaps by capitalizing on the latest methodological and technological innovations in the field of media exposure and sleep tracking. By bridging the expertise from these two fields with a developmentally sensitive approach, the digiSLEEP team will take an important next step in understanding how smartphones are influencing sleep of today’s adolescents and emerging adults by asking about the the effect of time spent on smartphone, the effect of exposure to smartphone screen light, and the effect of smartphone media content. This research line is co-directed by Susanne Baumgartner and Sindy Sumter.