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Parents’ Moral Discourse on Strategies For Controlling Children’s Media Use

Elisa Pigeron

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 63


Parents have been greeting each new communication medium with a mixture of fear and hope for the last few decades. The present study proposes that media use is a highly morally loaded arena, which provokes relatively explicit social orientations in the form of social rules, expectations, and defined transgressions. As such, the close examination of parents’ media-related discourse during interviews provides insights on media ideologies within the home, and on the moral identities and agency of family members in those contexts. Through ethnographically-informed discourse analysis of interviews with parents in dual-earner families in the greater Los Angeles area, this paper reveals that parents frequently struggle to present themselves as moral agents when discussing how they attempt to control and monitor their children's media exposure. They employ multiple strategies to portray themselves as "doing the right thing", adhering to an ideal moral image of parenthood. A particular focus is put on how parents construct their ideologies and identities through their discourses surrounding the moral challenges of children’s media use, and on how the collective voice of culture with its practices, preferences, and ideologies seems to permeate the individual's articulations of accountability vis-à-vis media exposure.

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