Texas Tech University

Researcher Helps Parents and Children Understand Media's Impact in Their Lives

McKenzi Morris

July 7, 2020

Eric Rasmussen received a 2020 Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Award.

In February, the Texas Tech University System announced its 2020 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards to honor outstanding faculty members who provide exceptional opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting the seven Texas Tech University faculty members who were recognized. This is the fifth in this series.

Eric Rasmussen, an associate professor in the College of Media & Communication, knows media is changing every aspect of the world. From how people communicate, teach and learn, to how they raise their children, the media landscape alters how people interact with themselves, others and their surroundings.

Rasmussen's background as a researcher is connected to his role as a father. He focuses on children and the media, studying how media influences children at different stages in their lives and in what ways. He has become an expert in his field, with his research helping people, especially parents, understand why kids are affected by media. His blog, ChildrenAndMediaMan.com, and his book, "Media Maze: Unconventional Wisdom for Guiding Children through Media," provide parents with strategies to help their children learn about media and skills to sort through the messages they see on a daily basis.

As a faculty member, Rasmussen teaches his students about media, and themselves, by helping them see how different mediums and platforms are used in their own lives.

He has received numerous awards for his work as a teacher and researcher, including the Best Published Article Award in the Children, Adolescents and Media Division from the International Communication Association; the 2017 New Faculty Award and the Outstanding Researcher of the Year; and the Billy I. Ross Mass Communications Faculty Achievement Award in 2016.

On Feb. 5, Rasmussen received a Chancellor's Council Distinguished Research Award.


Can you describe your research and its impact, both in academics and society?
My research explores the effect of media on children's well-being and what parents can do about it. My research has found that, yes, children are affected by the media, and that parents are perhaps the single greatest influence on how the media affects children. Parents are powerful, and training today's parents is essential if we are to help kids navigate the increasingly complicated media world.

What projects are you working on at this time?
One of the projects I'm working on right now involves parent-child communication about children's mental health. I'm also working on a project that explores how educational media can be used to help teach children with autism spectrum disorder.

What areas are you interested in for future research?
I see my future research exploring the role of media in children's mental health. Media is not going away, and I want to conduct research that looks at how we can harness the power of media to improve children's mental health.

What rewards do you get from teaching?
I love seeing the "aha" moments – the moments when students grasp that what they are learning has real-life implications for their own life or for their research. I'm convinced that learning happens in the struggle, and it's gratifying to see students struggle through the unknown and come out better on the other side.

What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?
I went into academia because I want to be part of the solution. I want to help children and youth get the most out of, and avoid the pitfalls of, the media they consume.

How has Texas Tech helped you advance your research and teaching?
Texas Tech has provided me with every resource I've needed to conduct research. My line of research is relatively expensive compared to other types of research in communication – working with children and families requires resources, and I have always had every resource I've needed in order to accomplish the goals of my research. I have improved as a teacher at Texas Tech due to the trust placed in me by administrators to use my own strengths and to be myself as I've engaged with students.

Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?
First, my wife and children have been the motivation and vision behind my career. Their support means everything. Beyond my family, my high school English teacher saw something in me and nurtured my skills as a writer and researcher. Finally, during my time as an assistant professor in the College of Media & Communication, I was mentored by a department chair (Dr. Trent Seltzer) and dean (Dr. David Perlmutter) who both provided opportunities and advice that have helped me get to where I am today as a researcher and teacher.