Building the knowledge base on networked environments. According to Wartella, not enough research is being conducted on networked environments, and the knowledge base that could inform policy and practice is lagging well behind Internet growth and changes in the ways that young people use and access the Internet. Wartella also stated that there is a great need to regularly reconceptualize what constitutes networked environments and the media, and new research endeavors must be attentive to significant online changes. Current notions of the media as distinct platforms—such as television, radio, movies, print media—must be rethought now that material previously available on only one platform is accessible on the Internet. As new technologies offer additional means to access the Internet (e.g., cell phones and video games that connect to the Internet) and penetrate the population, it is likely that media platforms and communication forms will continue to collapse, and this has significant implications for research. For example, one implication of this collapsing of platforms is that the digital divide as it is currently defined—namely in terms of access to the Internet—will cease to be a relevant concept. Platforms like video games are found much more equally across socioeconomic and ethnic groups than are computers in the home, so games that access the Internet will greatly increase overall Internet access. However, a digital divide may continue to exist if there are great differences in the way young people use the Internet (e.g., for socializing and gaming or for research and homework help). Future research must consider the meaning of concepts like the digital divide to ensure that they are relevant to the current media and technological landscape.
The collapsing of media platforms is also relevant to policies that seek to regulate media content. Current theories of regulation are delineated by media platform. For example, First Amendment protections for print media are very strong compared with those regulating television and the radio; as Wartella noted, this is largely because society views radio and television airwaves as being owned by the public. Furthermore, she observed that a larger theoretical and philosophical understanding of what media are and in what ways media platforms intersect with regulatory policies represents foundational questions that should underlie future explorations of this topic.
Empirical studies on impact of media content. Future research on the media should also focus on the impact of content on young people, seeking to answer questions about how they learn about sexuality from the media, as well as how vulnerable or resistant they are to the messages con