The Media's Role in Political Socialization
Political socialization begins in childhood. Some research suggests that family and school teachers are the most influential factors in socializing children, but recent research designs have more accurately estimated the high influence of the media in the process of political socialization. On average, both young children and teenagers in the United States spend more time a week consuming television and digital media than they spend in school. Young children consume an average of thirty-one hours a week, while teenagers consume forty-eight hours of media a week. High school students attribute the information that forms their opinions and attitudes about race, war, economics, and patriotism to mass media much more than their friends, family, or teachers. Research has also shown that children who consume more media than others show greater support for and understanding of American values, such as free speech. This may be because eighty percent of the media content children consume is intended for an adult audience. In addition, the impact of the messages is more powerful because children’s brains are “prime for learning,” thus more likely to take messages and representations of the world at face value.
The media’s role in political socialization continues in adulthood through both fictional and factual media sources. Adults have increased exposure to news and political information embedded in entertainment; fictional entertainment (mostly television) is the most common source of political information. The culmination of information gained from entertainment becomes the values and standards by which people judge.