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The significance of daily soaps in children's and adolescents' everyday lives

The phenomenon that children not only watch children's programmes but are also extremely fond of soap operas is well known, but the background has hardly been researched at all. The specific significance of this genre for adolescents and children has hitherto remained open to a great extent. This is the starting point of an IZI study to investigate the fact that children (6-9 years), pre-teenagers (10-13 years) and adolescents (14-19 years) are fascinated by German soap operas. ("Marienhof", "Verbotene Liebe", "Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten", "Unter Uns")

Questions to guide the research

  • How and for what purpose do children and adolescents use the genre of the soap opera? What makes this format so successful with children and adolescents?
  • Does the reception of "adult soaps" differ from the acquisition of the children's soap "Schloss Einstein" (KI.KA ARD/ZDF) or the new format "Big Brother" (RTL2)?
  • How is the enthusiasm for soap operas integrated into everyday life as far as content and aesthetics are concerned?
  • What do primary school children do with such soap themes as sexuality, jobs or constant crises in relationships?
  • Which social forms are created around soap operas and which functions do they take over?

Research areas

A. Product analyses: media analyses (main areas: themes and figures)

B. An open, qualitatively oriented questionnaire and interview (N = 400; 50% face-to-face interviews ), Morning circle discussion (N = about 120)

C. Video and photo recordings of children's and young people's rooms (N = about 30)

D. Case studies of primary school children

E. Studies of soap fan clubs

From the point of view of media education, one of the questions asked is to what extent soap operas are suitable for children, or where support for media education should begin. Connected to this is also the question as to the characteristics of a more suitable programme which would be of equal interest to the children.

From the point of view of gender specifics, the potential and limits of the genre for viewers to find their individual identity will be pointed out. In addition to critical research into girls, here the initial stages of a critical research into boys will also be included.

From the point of view of cultural sociology, one of the questions involved is the extent to which children's enthusiasm for soap operas might provide indications of a kind of "loss of childhood" in selecting programmes.


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