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“Here’s the Deal”: Socialization into Morality Through Negotiations of Media Time Use

Elisa Pigeron

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 77


This paper examines the discourse of negotiation surrounding children’s media time use, as it emerges from naturally-occurring videorecorded interactions between parents and children. It investigates socialization strategies in families that organize children’s involvement with media technologies, and the types of responses that children provide to such strategies. Specifically, it explores how children are socialized into thinking about prioritizing activities, when one of them involves media. Also, this study examines how availability or unavailability of time with media is morally constructed in face-to-face interactions, and what roles participants play in those constructions, paying special attention to processes of negotiation, authority, and power through directive trajectories. Three trends of discourses around media emerge. First, when media use is framed as problematic, prioritizing certain activities for the sake of time seems to systematically entail postponing media use. Second, when the concept of media is ratified by parents, it becomes a threat or prize, even a privilege to be earned by children in order to be properly enjoyed. Third, even when children are rightfully engaged in media, parents often seem to be wary of their children’s ability to turn the technology off by themselves, and try to reinforce moral accountability.

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