ICA 2022 Awards Edition


The Children, Adolescents, and Media Division is thrilled to congratulate the 2022 CAM Award Winners. These awards recognize some of the best scholarship and service contributions from our members. Learn more about our 2022 award recipients below.

Top Dissertation – Caroline van Straten

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Amsterdam

CarolineCongratulations on winning the Top Dissertation Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
My dissertation focuses on the emergence of social relationships between children (aged 7-10) and social robots (Nao, Softbank). Our results show that the applicability of communication processes that facilitate interpersonal relationship formation to children’s interactions with social robots is less straightforward than is sometimes assumed. More specifically, our findings demonstrate that a social robot’s self-description, self-disclosure, and question-asking may not always influence children’s responses to social robots as could be expected based on the literature on interpersonal communication.

In addition, and contrary to previous research on child-robot interaction, we found that transparency about a social robot’s lack of human psychological capacities and remote-controlled working allows children to form more accurate robot perceptions without preventing child-robot relationship formation altogether. This finding is noteworthy because child-robot relationship formation is believed to increase the potential of social robot applications in, for instance, education and healthcare settings. Judging from our findings, desirable outcomes of such applications may be achieved without deceiving children about current social robots’ technological status and corresponding limitations.

Generally speaking, little doubt remains as to whether child-robot relationships will emerge when children increasingly encounter social robots in their daily lives. But the findings presented in my dissertation demonstrate that how children perceive and relate to social robots may, at least in part, depend on how we introduce these robots to children.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting your dissertation, and why?
The data collection periods were generally quite memorable; not in the least because of 6am train rides across the country, but primarily because of children’s responses to the robot. I remember children who would open up to Nao completely, telling the robot highly personal things, but also very shy and anxious children who didn’t dare to sit with the robot and would not leave my side for a minute. Once a girl with selective mutism participated, who never spoke to any of the teachers but did eventually dare to talk to the robot – at the condition that her best friend would be sitting right next to her. It was very interesting to witness how all these little individuals approached the robot in their own particular ways.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Celebrate your successes, whether they are tiny or huge! The first data collection you wrap up, the first paper you publish, giving your first conference presentation, finishing a pile of student papers you had to grade, or simply making it through a rough week: all worth a celebration, if you ask me. Thus, ensure to always keep a bottle of champagne in the office cupboard to be adequately prepared when you or a colleague reaches a milestone!

Best Published Article – Amber van der Wal

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Amsterdam

Co-authors: Jessica Piotrowski, Karin Fikkers, and Patti Valkenburg 

Amber van der WalCongratulations on winning the Best Published Article Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
Thank you very much, I am honored to receive this award and especially for this paper, as this one is very close to my heart. In this paper, we developed an intertheoretical framework of humor in media entertainment for adolescents. By combining explanations for the popularity of different types of humor from different theories, ten different humor types were identified: disparaging, slapstick, self-defeating, sexual, irreverent, coping, parody, wordplay, incongruity, and absurdity humor. The framework was subsequently tested through a manual content analysis of adolescents’ favorite television shows on a scene-level (5,633 scenes). This showed that all ten humor types were indeed present in adolescents’ favorite television shows, emphasizing the versality of humor in adolescents’ media entertainment. In addition, our content analysis revealed popular combinations of humor types, which shows that it is not only important to take type of humor into account, but also to consider the context in which it occurs, as this can strengthen, weaken, or even alter its interpretation for the adolescent viewer. Take sexual humor, for example. On its own, sexual humor is often considered a negative form of humor because it can be perceived as inappropriate or vulgar. However, our content analysis showed that in adolescents’ favorite shows, sexual humor frequently co-occurred with coping humor (humor employed to deal with difficult situations). The combination of sexual and coping humor may offer adolescents a means for tension release and a way to address the sensitive topic of sexuality. This finding may provide an important avenue for future research on effective sexual health campaigns.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting this study, and why?
Several things come to mind. First of all, the development of the coding manual was such a cognitive challenge. Paul McGhee (1979), a prominent early humor researcher, once said: “The number of discernible humor types is limited only by our own capacity to make distinctions between humorous events” and there is definitely some truth to this statement. Developing this humor type framework was an extensive test of my capacity for logical thinking and I have greatly benefitted from lengthy discussions about how to qualify certain humorous instances with my fellow coders and authors. The second memorable experience is the coding process itself. My boyfriend doesn’t want to watch tv with me anymore because I analyze every joke to death and that’s no wonder after coding hundreds of hours of adolescents’ favorite shows. The wide variety of content liked by adolescents truly amazed (and sometimes horrified) me, and has definitely made my fascination for this age group grow even bigger.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Well, as I have only defended my PhD two months ago, I still consider myself a young scholar, but in light of the upcoming ICA, I think my main advice would be “don’t be shy to reach out to more senior scholars for a chat”. I was scared to do so myself (feeling like I didn’t have much to bring to the table and didn’t want to bother busy people), but my supervisors pushed me to do so and I am so happy I did. Having chats with people like Dafna Lemish, Nicole Martins, Marie-Louise Mares, and Erica Scharrer have really enriched my thinking, increased my enthusiasm for research, and made my ICA experiences a whole lot more fun.

Engaged Research – Sonia Livingstone

Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science

Sonia LivingstoneCongratulations 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?
Engaged scholarship demands multiple research skills that, significantly, run contrary to the training that I and many others received from the academy. It’s vital to (1) listen to, collaborate with, and learn from rather than just disseminate to communities and stakeholders outside the university, (2) formulate clear ideas of the societal improvements that evidence-based policy and practice could enable, (3) find ways to communicate complex and nuanced insights in everyday language rather than academic grammar (passive voice, convoluted sentences, key ideas left to the last page, etc.), and (4) anticipating what research might be needed, when and by whom, and finding ways to get it to them rather than waiting for them to knock on our door.

This and more I learned by founding the EU Kids Online research network and working with many wonderful colleagues and practitioners across Europe to inform and improve children’s digital lives.

Looking back, I think our sheer audacity in surveying 25000 children and parents in 25+ languages to understand their online risks and opportunities meant that stakeholders had to take note. Not to mention our determination to root out, and to counter with evidence, the host of myths and moral panics about children and childhood that were endemic in multistakeholder forums.

Since then, my research has taken me in various new directions, including expanding EU Kids Online into Global Kids Online, with UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, and deploying the resulting theories and findings to inform child rights advocates concerned with the digital technology. This necessitated putting social science into dialogue with legal, human rights and regulatory debates, which is intellectually and politically challenging.

This work culminated in helping to draft General Comment 25 on children’s rights and the digital environment with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which may be the most engaged and rewarding activity of my career.

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting engaged research, and why?
So many experiences come to mind! Arguing with multidisciplinary colleagues over the thorny relation between risk and harm. Responding to senior policymakers who want to optimize the benefits of media literacy or parental mediation. Realizing the first insights of our survey of 25000 children. Persuading the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the digital environment needs their attention. Participating in high level policy events where no-one wants to hear about children. Presenting research they could not ignore to reluctant industry audiences. Visiting the places where policy is made, whether fancy formal debating chambers or underfunded civil society offices or late night bars. And, always, talking with children about their experiences and concerns, in homes, schools, youth conferences, everywhere I could.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Listen. We are taught to talk, to hold forth, to determine the course of events, both in our teaching and our research practice. We aren’t taught enough to listen, to really hear people’s concerns, and then to figure out what might explain them and how to respond constructively.

Top Reviewer – Allyson Snyder

Ph.D. Student, University of California, Davis

Allyson SnyderCongratulations 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?
Remember the person behind the paper. Science is a team sport. We are trying to answer the same questions in different ways. When reviewing, consider how the manuscript can be improved to advance knowledge of our field.

What would be your reviewer motto?
“Be honest and be kind”

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
I’m a first-year graduate student, so I feel unqualified to give advice to other young CAM scholars, but if I were to give myself advice, I would remind myself to be bold and trust my intuitions.

Top Student-Led Paper – AnneMarie McClain

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Co-author: Marie-Louise Mares

McClain_AnneMarieCongratulations on winning the Top Student Paper Award! Can you provide a brief summary of your key findings?
The results found evidence for three types of content desired by U.S. Black parents for their children, which align with Knobloch-Westerwick’s (2015) SESAM motivations: helping the child achieve identity consistency, helping the child achieve identity enhancement, and helping the child achieve identity improvement (e.g., growth, resilience).

Overall, parents’ top-rated content preferences were everyday Black life depictions (identity consistency), Black characters discussing pride, history, and culture (identity enhancement), and contemporary racism (identity improvement) – and there were no differences by child age. As such, even parents of preschoolers reported wanting their children to see high frequencies of contemporary racism.

Importantly, with child age in the model, the results did find a positive association between parents’ ratings of how strong their child’s ethnic-racial identity was and parents’ reported desired frequency of everyday Black life depictions and of contemporary racism depictions for their child. These findings align with Hughes et al.’s (2016) and Beyens’ et al.’s (2019) theorizing about how parents adaptively socialize their children in response to their perceptions of the child’s development and needs.

In addition, parents’ self-reports of their own ethnic-racial identity strength predicted their desired frequency of all three of the top-rated content preferences. These findings about the potential role of parental ethnic-racial identity strength suggest that future work should consider the self-concepts of both the child and the parent when applying SESAM to the domain of race-related parental mediation.

A couple of other findings to highlight include that Black parents reported wanting to see their child to see high rates of diverse, easily identifiable Black characters more than they wanted their child to see high rates of metaphorical, ambiguous depictions. In addition, Black parents reported wanting their child to see higher frequencies of everyday representation than of historical racism.

What was your most memorable experience while conducting your dissertation, and why?
I try to do work that amplifies voices and that does its best to honor communities that are vulnerable. Since I want to try to listen to participants, one of the first places I look when I get soft (or full!) launch data are the open-ended responses to the “additional comments or questions” box that I always add to the end of my surveys

As such, my most memorable experience while conducting this study was during the soft launch, when a little bit of data came in. I was so inspired when I saw some comments that day of Black parents thanking us for doing this work and for doing it then. It helped me feel like I was on the right track, and that this line of work that I am developing may have the potential to make a difference.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do, and why?
This is such a tough question! There is so much that I want to do, and so much that feels important.

I think though, what I would ultimately do, is partner with a top-notch production company to design and test new preschool animation characters with intersectionally-marginalized identities, using theories and empirical data to suggest beta designs. I’d want to facilitate gathering feedback from families, children, and the communities the characters represent *at all stages of development* and then work to integrate their feedback into tangible suggestions for redesign, and then retest them. Then I’d want to repeat the iterative feedback and design process for the storylines and overall composition of the show. And then I’d want to follow up to test for effects on children, as well as on families (e.g., would exposure to certain shows/characters predict certain kinds of socialization?).

There is so much to do! The possibilities are endless!