Focus on research: AdPR professor studies early adolescents' use of social and traditional media

Associate Professor Maria Len-Rios studies
adolescents' media use patterns
As part of a new initiative, the Advertising and Public Relations department will highlight research led by our own faculty and staff. In this article, Associate Professor Maria Len-Rios studies early adolescents' use of media.

Maria E. Len-Rios, Hilary E. Hughes, Laura McKee, Henry N. Young (2015). Early adolescents as publics: A national survey of teens with social media accounts, their media use preferences, parental mediation, and perceived Internet literacy. ScienceDirect.com.
How do you get through to a 13-year-old? That’s not a purely rhetorical question. In fact, a team from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication recently conducted a national survey of early adolescents – recently published on ScienceDirect.com – to identify trends and patterns in their use of both social and traditional media.

The audience in question consists of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, generally ages 11-13, both male and female – a population with some $75 billion in annual spending power and strong brand loyalty potential. In other words, a valuable commodity that public relations professionals should know how to reach. The study found that early adolescents spend more time watching television than any other medium, including social – implying that communicators shouldn’t give up on traditional media as a way of reaching young people.

Like their older brothers and sisters, early adolescents tend to multi-task with both social and traditional media, but are more likely to read (or watch) social media content than to create their own. This suggests that PR professionals may have more difficulty generating quality interactions with this audience, which might not yet be ready for a higher level of engagement. As they grow older – and their level of access to social media grows – early adolescents gradually increase their online use. Drivers may include greater access at school – eighth-graders are more likely to have access at school than sixth- and seventh-graders – and a gradual lifting of parental limits.

Parental limits, however, have their own limitations when it comes to influencing early adolescent behavior – suggesting that in some cases, children may be tweeting and Instagramming without their parents’ knowledge. At the same time, limits on social access may increase the use of traditional media by this age group.
To view the full article, click here.
Written by Tripp Cagle.

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