ICA 2021 Awards Edition


The Children, Adolescents, and Media Division is thrilled to congratulate the 2021 CAM Award Winners. The awards recognize some of the best scholarship and service contributions from its members. Learn more about the 2021 recipients of the top papers, best published article, top dissertation, engaged research, and top reviewer awards.

Top Paper – Marco Gui

Associate Professor, University of Milano-Bicocca

Co-authors: Tiziano Gerosa,  Gianluca Argentin, and Lucilla Losi

unnamedCongratulations on winning the Top Paper Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
Thank you! Our paper evaluates the impact of a teachers training about mobile media education on their 10th grade students. We found that students that are invited to reflect and set themselves goals concerning their mobile media use show beneficial effects on problematic smartphone use and even on subjective well-being. Consistent with the existing literature, girls in our sample started with a disadvantage in terms of problematic smartphone use compared to boys. However, treated girls appeared to be very receptive to the intervention with larger impacts on indicators related to problematic smartphone use and also a significant increase in their content-related digital skills. We believe that our study shows the importance of media education interventions specifically designed to build skills for permanent connectivity. It can also bring a contribution to the debate about the direction of causality in the negative relationship between intensive smartphone use well-being: we show that – at least for some aspects – a more conscious management of smartphone usage can be beneficial to young people!

What was your most memorable experience while conducting this study, and why?
Well, the hardest part of the study was definitely the field. We had to organize a randomization of 10th grade classes in 18 schools and convince the teachers to participate in the training if their class was selected. But even harder was to manage the pre-post administration of the questionnaire and digital skill test to all the classes (treated and controls) with a presence of someone from the research group. This meant entering in many different situations, arranging the dates with the teachers, meeting different kinds of students and school contexts. Once, in a school in a difficult urban context, a small firecracker exploded while we were explaining how to fill in the survey. Despite this inconvenience, we were then able to carry out the survey in an orderly way on all the students in that class. Apart from this episode, which we still remember with a mixture of worry and fun, meeting so many students, teachers and situations helped us understand the actual situation where our intervention was intended to act. Something that you do not find in the datasets, not even in interviews with single students. I think that for scholars doing research on students, it is essential to physically enter the classrooms, in order to personally experience what you are talking about. This also helps to propose policy solutions that are contextualized and realistic.

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
We collected the data before the pandemic, so the fieldwork was not impacted by it. However, we wrote the paper during the Italian lockdowns of the past months which were strict and long. We couldn’t see each other in person and all our work was managed through cloud platforms. Those of us who have children, often had to take care of them since schools have been closed for long periods. What we lacked the most was the chance to talk to each other informally, to have a coffee together, to also talk about something other than the specific objectives of the meeting. We lacked a bit of what is called “serendipity”! I remember that sometimes we organized meeting sessions without a specific goal, with a cup of tea in front of us, or a beer, to discuss the issues we saw in our team. Very beautiful and very fruitful discussions emerged, even for this paper. We have understood that in one way or another, a research group needs spaces of conviviality and discussion outside specific work goals. We will remember this now that reopening seems imminent.

Top Student-Led Paper – Sarah Devos

PhD Student, Leuven School for Mass Communication Research

Co-authors: Kathrin Karsay, Steven Eggermont, and Laura Vandenbosch 

Photo_SarahDevosCongratulations on winning the Top Student Paper Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
Thank you, I am very happy to have received this award! I have conducted a 14-day diary study among 186 adolescents to explore the daily relations between positive social media content, inspiration and pressure. When Kathrin Karsay (co-author) and I were analyzing the results, we found that exposure to positive social media portrayals is neither good nor bad for adolescents’ mental well-being, but largely depends on their daily self-perceptions and the type of content they are exposed to. More specifically, on days when adolescents are more exposed to positive content, they are more confident in their own capacities to become such a person themselves. This positivity can turn into pressure to improve themselves on days when adolescents perceive their current living situation as far removed from their potential status and thus experience higher levels of self-discrepancy. These relations only appeared for positive content on vacations and relationships, meaning that we have to take into account the type of content adolescents are exposed to. Positive posts about friends or cool activities do not seem to trigger such effects.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting this study, and why?
For me, the most memorable experience would be the feedback I received from my adolescent participants during this study. Participants were notified by text message every evening, which provided an opportunity for them to interact with me. This was, of course, very useful when questions or problems occurred, but I also regularly received text messages from participants who wanted to wish me a lovely evening or weekend. Some of them even thanked me for reminding them to fill in the questionnaire. I was pleasantly surprised to experience that most adolescents genuinely wanted to be involved in this study and were interested in its outcomes.

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
Collecting data among minors during a pandemic is quite challenging, especially when schools are closed. But personally, I think the greatest impact on my research has been that all research related activities had to be cancelled. International conferences that suddenly turned into online conferences or research stays that had to be delayed. It was demotivating to not be able to have all these great experiences. Gladly, there are a lot of alternatives, such as webinars or online communities, that provide opportunities to network with other scholars. I therefore recommend others to use these opportunities and reach out to others if you are interested in their research. The comment section on the ICA presentations, for example, might a good start. By leaving a nice comment or question you can get in touch with other presenters and simultaneously let them know that you appreciate their work.

Top Student-Led Paper – Caroline van Straten

PhD Student, University of Amsterdam

Co-authors: Jochen Peter, Rinaldo Kühne, and Alex Barco

Picture CarolineCongratulations on winning the Top Student Paper Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?

Thanks! We studied, first, whether a social robot’s engagement in self-description would increase child-robot relationship formation and children’s perceptions of the robot as a social, mental, and moral other. Contrary to our expectations, this was not the case: We only found an adverse effect of self-description on children’s ratings of the robot’s similarity to themselves. Second, informing children about the robot’s teleoperated working before the interaction decreased children’s perceptions of its autonomy and anthropomorphism, but left other elements of children’s robot perceptions (as well as child-robot relationship formation) unaffected. These findings (and the absence of several expected ones) highlight, among others, that interpersonal communication processes may manifest themselves differently in child-robot interactions than can be expected based on the literature on interpersonal relationships – especially when a robot’s lack of human-likeness is openly acknowledged to children.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting this study, and why?
During this study, I visited one school that was attended by many children with parents with non-western nationalities. When I asked them, in the context of our measure of perceived similarity, to what extent they thought NAO (the robot) looked like them, many of them answered: “Not at all, because NAO is white and I’m not”. We need to become more sensitive to, and aware of, such biases and ultimately try to eliminate them.

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
We usually conduct data collections in schools and museums and haven’t been able to do so since the start of the pandemic. We’re currently preparing an online study, in which children will watch videos of the robot. The data collection has not yet been completed, so it’s a little early to share any ‘lessons learned’. And let’s hope that, by the time we can share them, we’ll almost be able to meet in person again – whether at schools, in the office, or at conferences.

Top Dissertation – Soeun Yang

Research Associate, Seoul National University

Soeun YangCongratulations on winning the Top Dissertation Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
I am very honored to receive this award. Moreover, I appreciate the warm support and passion of the CAM division as they greatly motivated and inspired me while I completed my thesis. Thank you so much!

My dissertation is drawing from the emergent expressive model of citizenship and investigates how youth active engagement and communication with diverse people online offers different forms of civic developmental experiences. Taking a communicative perspective on youth civic development, this research focuses on communication competence as a foundation for civic competence, and establishes a theoretical model to examine the processes and outcomes of online communication.

From a two-wave panel data of youth participants, the results revealed that communication efficacy is a key to understanding relationships between adolescents’ online communication experience and their increasing civic and political participation. However, I also found that uncivil online behaviors such as cyber hate, intolerant messages and rage language, as well as civil online behavior, also increased, suggesting a path of unrefined, expressive citizenship development. At the same time, I found a path of refined, democratic citizenship which begins with online self-disclosure. In this path, communication reflexivity shows a crucial mediating role by mitigating uncivil online behaviors.

By determining the developmental paths to becoming an expressive citizen through online communication, this research suggests that both researchers and educators should pay close attention to the online spaces as a developmental environment. Moreover, by normatively evaluating young people’s changed citizenship behaviors, I discuss challenges as well as opportunities for civic development in the online environment within the context of young people’s everyday life.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting your dissertation, and why?
Although tough, the most memorable experience was collecting and analyzing longitudinal data. The process was more challenging than I expected. However, as much as I struggled through the process, I learned a lot and, all in all, the whole process became a precious experience.

The data of my dissertation is a two-wave panel of two years, which was collected by visiting middle and high schools several times. I had several anxieties about my research including whether the data would be well gathered in the end, whether the analysis could be performed well, and whether the results would come out as expected. Therefore, the moment I discovered the fascinating results, after struggling with analyzing a multilevel structural equation model, is unforgettable.

By revealing the important results, I was able to graduate successfully and receive awards such as the CAM dissertation award. I am pleased to discuss the strenuous process with others. I am very grateful that through the difficult parts of my research I had my adviser Prof. Eun-mee Kim, who motivated me and emphasized the importance of longitudinal studies in research and also Prof. Hyun Suk Kim, who strongly guided me in analyzing panel data.

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on not only me but also other researchers who have been collecting data for research on children and adolescents. Last year, I participated in some research related to media literacy interventions. Although our research team planned offline-based media education programs, we could not conduct the offline-based programs and research due to the pandemic. The program consisted of a full day of lectures and work trainings. Although I was worried about properly running the program, all contents were moved online and were successfully completed. Moreover, we were faced with the great opportunity of collecting data that could confirm the effectiveness of online training programs. Of course, long-term offline education is most ideal, but online interventions would be able to draw a great practical implication when offline education is not available.

It is more vigorous work to collect data from children and adolescents than to conduct research on adults. I suppose this pandemic is tormenting loads of researchers, especially who study young children. While the pandemic seems to be easing up in certain parts of the world, in others we must still be cautious. I hope to meet everyone in person rather than online in order to discuss our concerns after overcoming this intense and complicated period.

Best Published Article – Ine Beyens 

Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

Co-authors: Loes Pouwels, Irene van Driel, Loes Keijsers, and Patti Valkenburg 

IBeyensCongratulations on winning the Best Published Article Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
Thank you so much! It is such a great honor to win this award! In this study, we aimed to find an answer to the question whether social media benefit or undermine adolescents’ well-being. We found that the answer is not simple: The effect differs substantially from adolescent to adolescent. To get at this finding, we conducted an experience sampling method (ESM) study among 14- and 15-year-olds. We assessed adolescents’ experiences six times per day for one week. This way, we obtained 2,155 real-time assessments of adolescents’ social media use and affective well-being. These intensive longitudinal data allowed us to investigate the association between social media use and affective well-being for each single adolescent. As such, we were able to quantify how many adolescents benefited and how many suffered from using social media. We found that the majority of adolescents did not experience any changes in well-being related to their social media use. And if they did experience any changes, these were more often positive than negative. For instance, while 74% of adolescents did not feel more or less happy when they had spent more time browsing posts or stories of others on Instagram, another 17% of adolescents felt happier, and yet another 9% felt less happy.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting this study, and why?
This is one of the first publications that resulted from our Project AWeSome. And it really was a true display of teamwork! Besides feeling extremely lucky in finding myself surrounded by great colleagues and brilliant minds, I truly cherish the lively discussions and all the fun we had while conducting this study. We poured our blood, sweat, and tears into our project. Setting up an ESM study (definitely a great challenge for the people in our team like me trained in conducting “traditional” survey studies!), analyzing the data using new techniques and statistical programs, and writing up the findings felt like a rollercoaster with several ups and downs. Sending messages to keep the participants motivated and receiving GIFs and memes from them as a reply definitely added to the ups. And, of course, seeing the article being published and receiving CAM’s article award is really the icing on the cake!

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
This is such a great question! I have often been wondering how other CAMmers are dealing with the pandemic and juggling their research (and teaching) and so many other aspects of their academic and personal lives. I loved reading the insights and suggestions on ICA’s The Link!

I count myself very lucky that I am part of a dedicated and enthusiastic research team. Collaborating with others definitely helped me adapting my research to the new reality. The second data collection wave of our project (a three-week ESM study) started on the exact same day that schools in the Netherlands re-opened after the mandated school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We had to completely rethink the data collection procedure. For instance, we created instruction videos (instead of visiting the schools) and devoted much of our time to sending messages to participants to keep them motivated. One of the PhD students in our team created a beautiful webpage that participants could use to check how many ESM surveys they had completed, and, perhaps most interesting for participants, how much compensation they would receive. This seemed to work pretty well!

Engaged Research – Maya Götz 

Head of the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television

maya-goetzCongratulations on winning the Engaged Research Award! This is a new award that goes to scholars who contribute to CAM research through community-engaged scholarship. Can you provide a brief summary about how your work has achieved these goals?
Working for the public broadcasting system in Germany and heading the PRIX JEUNESS Foundation I have the great opportunity to promote quality in children’s media on a very practical and global level. For 20 years we have been conducting all kinds of basic studies (e.g., studies on “Fear in front of the screen” or “How to foster resilience with fictional stories?”) as well as concrete studies on specific programs (e.g. a series on the Second World War and Shoah/Holocaust for 8- to 12-year-olds or an entertaining children’s program against racism). Over the PRIX JEUNESSE network, which includes more than 5,000 TV executives and producers from more than 100 countries, I have the wonderful opportunity to spread our findings worldwide through our workshops, publications and the PRIX JEUNESSE INTERNATIONAL – the renowned children’s TV festival which attracts more than 500 TV producers from around 65 countries to come to Munich for 6 days every other year to watch and discuss the most innovative and interesting programs and learn about the latest research findings.

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting engaged research, and why?
This was definitely the project “Strong Stories for Strong Children”! For the project, I conducted workshops with more than 1,000 producers in over 50 countries and collected stories of resilience: The moment in their own childhood in which they discovered how strong they actually are. In addition to this, we organized Storytelling Clubs, in which children, e.g. forced migrants, told others about their moments of resilience. Every group produced a book out of their stories, works of art, and the helpful hints the participants wanted to pass on to other children living in difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, in the sixth year of this project, we were able to help partners all over the world to organize Storytelling Clubs for children, to tell their strong stories and experience all the nice little exercises you can do to foster their resilience.

So the study is not only an analysis of 600 stories of moments of becoming aware of one’s own strength from 50 countries, it also involves an in-depth and health-promoting workshop to foster children’s and adults’ resilience. The study revealed amazing accordance in terms of the settings and moments of resilience the participants mentioned, which shows that even though children grow up under very different circumstances they have very much in common.

Some of the stories have been realized in the live-action series “The Day I Became Strong” (season 1 +2) and “The Day I Became Strong in the Pandemic” (season 3). The project is organized as a sharing pool: broadcasters produce at least one episode and get the rights for the other 26+ episodes from the other broadcasters. This is a wonderful project and it helps producers to listen to children, take on their perspective and understand that sometimes small stories are stronger than an adult may have thought. And, of course, we tested the Storytelling Clubs and the series – and both of them foster resilience to a significant level.

How has your research been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you have any tips/insights for other CAM researchers who might be facing similar challenges?
When the pandemic reached Germany, we had to modify all research projects and conduct virtual studies. For the study “Children, Media and COVID-19″, for example, we inquired 4,322 children from 42 countries by means of online questionnaires. For the qualitative part of the study, we organized virtual interviews for example with children in the Syrian war zone or in refugee camps in Lebanon.

The pandemic limits the possibilities to do research with and for children. At the same time we are forced to think into new directions. Without this new situation of having to do many things online, I probably would have never thought about organizing interviews with children in a war zone.

As another example, with partners in Brazil we organized virtual Storytelling Clubs in different regions of the country and beautiful stories were found there, e.g., the story of an indigenous girl who made her first bow, even though girls are not supposed to. Her story was turned into a beautiful episode of “The Day I Became Strong in the Pandemic” and now she can share her story with children worldwide.

Another “strong story” came from a boy in São Paulo whose father had died from COVID-19 in April 2020 and – through the virtual Storytelling Club – he finally found a way to talk about this experience and deal with the tragic situation in a healthy way. Through the new digital opportunities, we have the possibility to give a voice to children who we normally don’t hear in our research – and sometimes we even have the possibility to not only give them a voice but also foster their resilience and well-being.

Top Reviewer – Alanna Peebles

Research Manager, Commonsense Media

AlannaCongratulations on winning the Top Reviewer Award! If you had to give one piece of advice to CAM members on how to provide top reviews, what would it be?
Focus on the big picture: What and how much does the paper contribute to the field? I start to answer these questions by making an outline of the paper as I read it. It helps me see where the author can strengthen their contribution. This might be through adjusting the logical flow of their arguments, tending to sections that are missing empirical or theoretical information, or using a different theory/framework that better fits their methods or purpose. It also helps me see where I should leave comments about what the author did really well!

What would be your reviewer motto?
Be the reviewer that you wish you had!