Roy F. Fox (1996). Harvesting Minds: How TV Commercials Control Kids. (Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood). xx + 210 pp. ISBN 0-275-95203-7. $72.95 (hardbound), $29.95 (paper; released 2000). Works cited, index.
This book honestly states its thesis in the title. Considering the controversies over methodology in studies of "how television affects children" conducted over nearly half a century, we shouldn't be complacent about how much is "known" about this topic. Unfortunately, with the exception of the research mentioned below, this volume reminds a reader with long memory of the books by Frederic Wertham and others many decades ago that argued that whichever medium was considered most dangerous at the moment of publication (movies, comic books, etc.) would steal away the very souls of our children.
Parts of this book involve research into the content and effects of "Channel One," which provides news content and equipment to schools in exchange for commercials aimed at the captive audience of homeroom students.
Following a foreword by George Gerbner, this volume asks six questions: "How well do kids know commercials?," "How do kids respond to commercials?," "How do kids evaluate commercials?," "How do commercials affect kids' behavior?." "How do commercials affect kids' consumer behavior?," and "What can we do right now?" Although nearly a quarter of the content is devoted to a first chapter on "Kids and commercials" and a next-to-last chapter on "Conclusions and recommendations," it is probable that these conclusions and recommendations could have been written before doing the research. For example, the recommendations are: "Ban electronic and print advertising in schools," "Establish the American Mediacy Project," "Use media to teach print and use print to teach media," "Treat media issues as public health issues" and "Return media to its (sic) rightful owners" (translation: opposition toward media monopolies, and need for an unspecified mechanism for returning control to the public).
The above article was published in Media Ethics , Spring 2004 (15:2), p. 32.