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Fear Induction through Media Content in Children

Joanne Cantor


There is a growing body of evidence that the mass media, especially television shows and movies, often induce fear and anxiety in children. Fear is an → emotion characterized by the subjective feeling that one is in danger, and is usually accompanied by physiological reactions, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and other forms of arousal of the autonomic nervous system (→ Physiological Measurement ). Fear is often referred to as an intense response of short duration, whereas anxiety usually refers to lingering feelings of nervousness that endure over longer periods (→ Media Effects Duration ). Research shows that feelings of fear or anxiety produced by media exposure often result in sleep problems and can cause children to dread or avoid activities that they once considered non-threatening (→ Affects and Media Exposure ). There are methodological challenges inherent in studying media-induced fears because it is unethical to show scary movies to children in order to prove that they cause nightmares and intense anxieties (→ Research Ethics ). Research on long-term fears, therefore, uses either → surveys or a more detailed, retrospective approach, in which individuals report on their reactions to television shows and movies they have seen in the past. Research exploring the types of media images and events that scare different sub-groups of children ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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