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Erica Scharrer - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Erica Scharrer

Professor of Communication | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Erica Scharrer is an expert in the study of media content, opinions of media, media effects and media literacy.

Expertise (5)

Media and Children

Media Literacy

Media Effects

Opinions of Media

Media Content


Erica Scharrer is an expert in the study of media content, opinions of media, media effects, and media literacy, particularly regarding gender and/or aggression.

She has a particular interest in the role of media in the lives of children and adolescents, and how young people respond to media literacy education.

Social Media






How Screen Time Affects Child Brain Development and Health | Connecting Point | July 17, 2018 Erica Scharrer Supports the Fund Our Future Campaign and the Cherish Act


Education (3)

Syracuse University: Ph.D., Mass Communication

Syracuse University: M.A., Public Communication Studies

SUNY Geneseo: B.A., Communication

Select Recent Media Coverage (2)

Getting Answers: social media impact on teenager’s mental health

Western Mass News  tv


Growing research is alarming and studies show high levels of social media use are associated with increased depression, especially among middle and high school students. “The statistics are pretty clear and they are quite startling that depression is on the rise among adolescents in the U.S. and elsewhere, especially adolescent girls,” said UMass Communications Professor Dr. Erica Scharrer. Scharrer conducts research specific to the role that media has in the lives of children and adolescents.

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Sitcom dads are getting dumber

The Week  online


Scharrer's study examined TV dads' interactions with their kids in 34 sitcoms that aired between 1980 and 2017 and found that the more recent the show, the less likely it was to feature the fathers doing much actual parenting. And when they did, these scenes were more likely to depict sitcom dads' parenting as foolish — "showing poor judgment, being incompetent, or acting childishly," Scharrer explains at The Conversation.

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Select Publications (6)

Early adolescents’ views of gender on YouTube in the context of a critical media literacy program

The Communication Review

2023 YouTube is popular among early adolescents who engage with the platform, in part, to explore and express their identity. Yet very little is known about the ways in which early adolescents approach representation and identity expression on YouTube with a critical lens. This qualitative study details an in-school media literacy program conducted with a sample of 54 sixth graders (ages 11 and 12) from a public elementary school in New England, USA, on the topic of gender and media.

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Children are bombarded with violence in the news – here’s how to help them cope

The Conversation

Nicole Martens and Erica Scharrer


"In an era of 24-hour news coverage, it is likely that children will come across disturbing news content. For some kids, this exposure is deliberate. Teenagers report that they find it important to follow current events. And more than half of teens get their news from social media and slightly fewer get their news from YouTube."

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Media, Diversity, and Representation in the US: A Review of the Quantitative Research Literature on Media Content and Effects

Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

2022 The U.S. population is becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality. In some ways, television, film, video game, and news content reflect that reality. Yet, in other ways, such content falls short, in terms of underrepresenting particular social groups and/or depicting those groups in a limited manner. The current review essay details the ways in which a number of minoritized social groups are portrayed in major media forms in the U.S. and connects to the research on implications of such depictions for minoritized as well as non-minoritized groups.

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Adolescents’ modern media use and beliefs about masculine gender roles and norms

Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

2022 In the current study, cultivation theory is used to examine associations among amount of time spent with television (including Netflix or other streaming services), video games, and YouTube and beliefs about masculine roles and norms within a diverse sample of 307 13- to 18-year-olds from the United States. Heavy users of television, video games, and YouTube outscored lighter users on endorsement of views of masculinity that favor emotional detachment, dominance, toughness, and/or avoidance of femininity among boys and girls in the sample. For boys only, heavy exposure to violence in favorite games also played a role.

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Tough Guys and Trucks: Early Adolescents’ Critical Analysis of Masculinity in a TV Commercial

International Journal of Communication

2022 Media literacy education (MLE) can advance the capacity to critique gender stereotypes in the media. Yet there is little, if any, existing MLE research pertaining to media and masculinities, in particular. In this study, 54 sixth-grade students (11-and 12-year-olds) participated in an in-school MLE program on gender and media and responded in writing twice to an open-ended prompt that invited their observations of and opinions about a truck commercial. Emerging themes illuminate students’ interpretations of depictions of masculinities, lack of women, and formal features used in the commercial.

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Disparaged dads? A content analysis of depictions of fathers in US sitcoms over time

Psychology of Popular Media

2021 Social statistics show marked changes in roles and norms associated with fatherhood in US society over time. This quantitative content analysis examines whether TV content has kept pace with such changes through the analysis of depictions of the father character and his interactions with children in the family-oriented situation comedy genre. In all, 578 scenes from 34 top-rated US family-oriented sitcoms from 1980 through 2017 are examined to explore the depiction of the father character over time. Changes in the depiction of the father as foolish approached significance by decade but were not linear. No change occurred in proportion of humorous exchanges in which fathers were the butt of the joke.

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