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Lauren Harrington, Stephanie A. Flores-Koulish, Ph.D., Victor R. Delclos, Ph.D.

A Star is Born: Media Content’s Powerful Influence on Students

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Today’s youth surround themselves with various forms of media, from the Internet to television to videogames, on a daily basis. It would be impractical to think that these media do not have an impact on youth—their beliefs, their attitudes, their moral standing, and their academic performance. I grew up during the dawn of the Internet and mainstream computers, and while I would like to think that I am the model student and human being, the forms of media I had access to for better or for worse contributed to my persona, beliefs, and achievements today. This spawned my interest in the role of media, but other factors, which will be described in the course of my research, contributed as well. Ultimately, my past experiences and my experiences in graduate school inspired me to access and analyze the influence of media on student achievement and conduct in the classroom via research.

The research methods I used were primarily qualitative. After getting approval from Loyola University Maryland’s Institutional Review Board, I made sure to get the permission of parents and students alike, as this was a middle school classroom being investigated. Students were made aware that they would remain anonymous, but they may be recorded in the research processes (primarily interviews). I sought to triangulate data via interviews, academic grades, observations, and pre and post-intervention surveys. I also tried to maintain a distance as the researcher by observing a colleague’s classroom.

The research results were inconclusive regarding the influence of media on student achievement and conduct in the classroom. Not enough research subjects submitted their initial consent form, nor did they attend interview sessions and submit surveys. As such, I could not make any formal conclusions regarding my initial research goal and focus (mentioned above).

However, I was surprised by the degree to which participating students were aware of the role of media content. Their views against certain types of media or certain media figures also demonstrated their significant understanding of the research subject matter when put in simpler terms. Thus, my analysis of research data resulted in a change in focus in my study. While I could not address my initial questions, I was able to make conclusions regarding the adolescents’ (ages 12 to 14 in this case) capacity to analyze media, media content, and its impact on them.

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