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Adolescent and Parent Emotions and Perceptions Regarding News Media Stories About Bullying: a Qualitative Study

Abstract

News articles covering bullying have often focused on tragic situations. The purpose of this study was to understand adolescents’ and parents’ emotions and perceptions related to bullying news media coverage. Participants were recruited as adolescent-parent dyads from pediatric clinics. During qualitative interviews, participants read and commented on two news article excerpts: (1) a tragic “fear-based” individual bullying news story and (2) a public health-oriented bullying news story. Qualitative analysis used the constant comparative approach. Our 50 participants included 25 adolescents with mean age 16.1 years (SD = 0.97), 44% female and 72% Caucasian, and 25 parents with mean age 49.2 (SD = 6.7) years, 80% female and 76% Caucasian. After reading the fear-based news excerpt, 19 adolescents (76%) and 18 parents (72%) responded that they felt negatively. For the public health-oriented excerpt, 12 adolescents (48%) and 20 parents (80%) felt positively. Further, over half of participants felt the news articles related to their lived experiences. Our data support that fear-based articles were associated with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, while public health-oriented news articles contributed to positive feelings and perceptions. This finding supports the potential of news media about bullying to serve as a venue for education or empowerment for families.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Christine Richards for her assistance with manuscript preparation.

Funding

This study was supported by The National Institutes of Health via a grant from NICHD: R21HD090221.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Dr. Moreno contributed to the conception of the study, the data collection instruments, the interpretation of the data, and drafting and editing the manuscript. Ms. Hyzer contributed to the recruitment efforts, data collection, analysis, drafting, and editing the manuscript. Ms. Bushman contributed to the analysis, drafting, and editing the manuscript. Ms. Gower contributed to the data collection instruments, recruitment efforts, data collection, analysis, drafting, and editing the manuscript. Dr. Pletta contributed to the data collection instruments, recruitment efforts, analysis, drafting, and editing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Megan A. Moreno.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Moreno, M.A., Hyzer, R.H., Bushman, M.E. et al. Adolescent and Parent Emotions and Perceptions Regarding News Media Stories About Bullying: a Qualitative Study. Int Journal of Bullying Prevention 3, 270–277 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-020-00083-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-020-00083-2

Keywords

  • News media
  • Bullying
  • Adolescent
  • Parent
  • Qualitative
  • Emotions