Puppets on a String? How Young Adolescents Explore Gender and Health in Advertising

This article presents qualitative research on young adolescents’ abilities in communicating and evaluating health messages in advertising especially how they understand and create gendered identities. A group of grade 6-8 students learned about media techniques and movie making. In groups divided by gender, they created iMovie advertisements for health activities in their school. They represented themselves in these advertisements by creating stick puppets. Observations during lessons, examination of movies and puppets, and interviews with students and their teacher revealed that young adolescents were neither completely manipulated by media nor were they completely in charge of their responses to media’s messages about gender. Offering students an opportunity to de-brief media experiences also helped them to develop critical media health literacy.