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Media and Development Lab

The Media and Development Lab (MaDLab) studies screen media in the lives of young people. Research projects are collaborative and have explored topics such as preschoolers' media exposure and beliefs about healthy eating; body image among young media users; and media as sensory tools to manage the built and social environments.

Hosted in Michigan by the MaDLab, the STRONG Kids Program is a transdisciplinary examination of family and community predictors of early childhood obesity, with funding from the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture Research, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the USDA, and the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. The STRONG Kids Program was co-founded by Professor Harrison at Illinois in 2007, and in 2011 she extended this research initiative to Michigan with her satellite project, Michigan STRONG Kids. Professor Harrison collaborates with investigators from communication, human and community development, food science and human nutrition, economics, kinesiology and community health, social work, medicine, and psychology.

Professor Harrison and the members of the MaDLab are also developing a new theory of sensory curation to describe how children and adults select and reject screen media on the basis of their sensory affordances, chiefly visual, auditory, and movement/activity/tactile input. The team is conducting survey research to explore whether inconsistencies in parents’ and children’s sensory sensitivities (for example, parents who avoid loud media but have children who seek out loud media) give rise to conflict in the family home over children’s media use.

Student-led projects have revolved around media’s role in empowering young women; college women’s changing perceptions of journalism and journalists; the use of Internet sites by sex workers in Detroit; and Black women’s sexual risk-taking and its connection to their consumption of Black relationship media.

The MaDLab meets weekly or biweekly and involves student collaborators at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Undergraduate students whose interests mesh closely with those of the lab are invited to inquire about participation under COMM 322 (Research Practicum), workstudy, or the COMM Honors Program (COMM 491/492). Lab activities include brainstorming to design studies and construct surveys; providing support and direction through data collection; discussing analysis and writeup of research findings; and strategizing about funding, publishing, and creating future studies. The mission of the lab is to further Dr. Harrison’s and her collaborators’ programs of research on media and youth development while building strong relationships between collaborators and the broader community of media-child researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.

Contact Information

Faculty Coordinator: Professor Kris Harrison
Phone Number: 734-764-6718


Communication and Media Graduate Students

Enrica Bridgewater

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Students

Daniela Lugo
Clare Oliver - DiPoalo
Talia Phillips
Joseph Sims