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date: 14 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the effects of various kinds of mediated portrayals of both antisocial behavior, such as aggression, as well as the effects of mediated portrayals of prosocial behavior such as altruism or social inclusion on children’s moral development. Utilizing both a child developmental approach as a theoretical frame and moral foundations theory as an organizing principle, the authors explore how exposure to children’s media can influence children’s moral judgments of and reasoning about (im)moral actions. In general, this body of work finds that exposure to violent content influences child and adolescent moral reasoning about caring for and harming of others. Specifically, exposure to violent content is negatively related to moral developmental variables, whereas prosocial content appears to have the opposite effect. In the context of including dissimilar others, research suggests that children and adolescents often extract the wrong message and behave in ways that are more exclusionary after viewing inclusion narratives, although properly designed shows may have positive effects. In terms of fairness/cheating/justice, research suggests that shows designed to promote perspective-taking and fairness influence young children’s moral judgments, resulting in children exhibiting more developmentally advanced moral reasoning. Last, research suggests that respect for authority can also be influenced by media exposure. In each study that explored perspective-taking as a mediator, results were consistent with the argument that perspective-taking advancements are key to improved moral reasoning in children.

Keywords: media, television, video games, videos, child development, moral development, moral judgments, moral reasoning, moral foundations theory

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