Children and media

New studies look into questions related to how children learn new vocabulary and old stigmatization from media

Prof. Cingel published two articles in the latest issue of Media Psychology, a top-ranked interdisciplinary journal and received a grant to support a follow-up study. The first paper (published with colleagues at the University of Amsterdam) examined how the social context (e.g., viewing alone vs. viewing with a friend) of viewing a narrative about including others influenced effects among a sample of 5- and 6-year-old children. Findings suggest that:

  • Viewing alone was not associated with decreases in stigmatization toward others.
  • Among 6-year-old children, viewing with a close friend was associated with higher levels of stigmatization following exposure.

The authors attributed the second, unexpected finding to the bystander effect. Although the episode was about including others, characters did enact exclusive behaviors at times, and work suggests that viewing bullying behaviors with bystanders present associates with increased approval of the behavior among children and adolescents.

Cingel subsequently received a grant to fund a follow-up study. This grant will support two undergraduate researchers over the coming quarters, as they work to design and collect data via a follow-up experiment.

The second paper (published with a colleague from Wake Forest University) tested very young children’s novel word learning from television (children ages 18-46 months). The authors were interested in comparing children’s learning of new words when the character spoke the word directly towards the screen (and thus toward the child) and when the child overheard two characters using the novel word. This study found that:

  • Children learned the novel word significantly more when the character spoke the word toward the viewer, compared to when the children overheard two characters using the word.
  • This effect occurred especially among children between the ages of 28 and 41 months, suggesting that age plays and important role in how children learn new words from media.


Cingel, D. P., Sumter, S. R., & Leur, J. van de. (2019). The Role of Social Context During Television Viewing on Children’s Moral Judgments About Social Exclusion and Stigmatization of Others. Media Psychology, 22(1), 133–151.
Krcmar, M., & Cingel, D. P. (2019). Do Young Children Really Learn Best From the use of Direct Address in Children’s Television? Media Psychology, 22(1), 152–171.