Effects Of Television On Children Essay, Research Paper
Beginning back in ancient times of message couriers, and progressing to newspapers, film, radio, television, and now the Internet, the mass media is unquestionably the principal way to receive information in recent times. There is quite a dichotomy in mass media. At the same time of being an essential means of socializing people values and beliefs and educating, it also has horrible consequences of being able to negatively affect and corrupt people. This paper will examine both sides of this problem, focusing on the effects of a particular mass medium, television, on a particular group of society, children. In particular it will examine studies that try to show both positive and negative affects on children.
Television is by far the most popular and influential medium in which children are exposed. It probably could be argued vehemently that television, in today s world of two-income families, is more influential than parents are to children. Some interesting statistics pertaining to the time spent by children watching television include the following: Most children watch an average of 28 hours of per week. Children spend 1500 hours a week watching television and 900 hours in the classroom. (Bibliography #7) As it can be seen children spend a disproportionate amount of their time watching television, compared to more worthwhile endeavors.
Although these statistics reveal that children watch an enormous amount of television, it does not give any indication of the type of programming that children are watching. It can be argued by some that television has no good effects. But in reality, television has an incredible upside. A study by Aletha C. Huston and John C. Wright examined the studies conducted that tried to portray television as having negative effects on children, and proved that most of these studies are flawed.
One criticism that is frequently brought up is that television causes viewers to become passive. Many argue that children are both physically and intellectually inactive while watching television. Huston et al support the argument, with studies to it back up, that children are continuously making judgements about the comprehensibility and interest of the content and thinking about the credibility, context, and applicability of what they are viewing. (Huston et al, pg.15) It is true that children are not actively interacting with the television, as they would be if they were in school with a teacher. They show that there have been significant efforts to overcome this by attempting to have kids interact with the television through certain segments of show such as Sesame Street and Mister Rodgers Neighborhood.
Another argument that has been repeatedly disputed is that television reduces the attention spans of children. One study proposed that programs containing short segments that have a rapid pace, as the ones shown on Sesame Street, might lead children to be easily distracted, to lose interest in a topic quickly, and thus have a short attention span. (Huston pg.17) It is shown that this is not supported by evidence. On the contrary, heavy viewers of Sesame Street are rated as being slightly better prepared for school and as having a more positive attitude toward school than infrequent viewers. (Huston pg. 18) Another experimental study, showed that children who were exposed to rapid segments compared to long ones did not show any differences is several attention tests. (Huston pg.18)
Huston not only dispelled myths about the negative connotations of television, but expose studies that show the incredible positive effects it can have on children. Most of these studies are conducted on the program Sesame Street.
It is hard to find out any one that was not raised by watching Sesame Street. It is by far the most widely watched educational children show in the history of television. It incorporates both visually stimulating contents that appeal to children with excellent educational overtones that have vast effects on children.
These effects are supported by studies. In the early 1980s, a study was conducted to find out if viewing of Sesame Street led to improve the vocabulary scores of children. It was shown that indeed children who frequently viewed improved more than non-frequent viewers on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, a test that controls for family characteristics that might affect scores. (Huston pg.13)
Sesame Street also has implication that go further than helping those in pre-school. It has been shown that Sesame Street viewing correlated into higher grades in later schooling. The most striking finding was that frequent viewers of Sesame Street and other child informative programs at age 5 had higher high school grades in English, math, and science than infrequent viewers, even with controls for early language ability and the educational level achieved by parents. (Huston pg.13)
The explanation of the persistence of the effects that make most sense is that by starting to watch these programs early, children start a cycle. In this cycle, children enter school prepared, have initial success, gain confidence, and are perceived by teachers as being bright these events in turn facilitate learning, which perpetuates the positive cycle. (Huston pg.13)
Not only does an educational program affect the intelligence of children; they also affect social and emotional development of children. Mister Rodgers Neighborhood is one of the first programs that were designed for this very reason. Experimental studies have shown that viewers of this program characteristically had increases in such behaviors as sharing, helping, and cooperation. (Huston pg.14)
There are many more studies that can be quoted that show that television can and is a very important medium for children. It greatly affects learning and socialization of children, not only in the present, but also in the future.
It would be great if it could be said that children watch only Sesame Street, Mister Rodgers Neighborhood, or The History Channel, the fact is that today s children are exposed to many potentially negative and harmful television programs. Studies have shown that by the time children complete elementary school, the average child will witness more than 100,000 acts of violence on television, including 8,000 murders. The average Saturday morning children s TV show contains 26 acts of violence per hour, compared to 5 acts during prime time. (Bibliography #7)
Studies have show that children who regularly watch violent programs tend to resolve conflicts using aggression to resolve conflicts. I can attest to this fact. As a youngster, I would rather fight than talk through problem. Growing up on a steady diet of pro wrestling, G.I. Joe, and He-Man, I feel it affected the way I approached problems.
Similarly, children in today s society are faced with the similar problems, if not larger in magnitude. It seems that society as a whole has become desensitized to violence. If not in television, it can be seen in rap music, or video games.
Take for instance, the children s television show The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This show is seen by many television critics as being the most popular children s program since the invention of the television. Studies have shown that this show has 211 violent acts per hour, compared to the normal children s show, which shows 26 acts of violence per hour. (Everett pg. 28)
Television shows such as this and Pokemon, may have violence that is considered more fantasy than real to adults. But children, especially those that are young, can not tell the difference between what is real and what is make-believe. Children watch these shows and come to believe that it is acceptable to use violence as a way to resolve conflicts. Television violence also fails to show the consequences of violence; thus children learn there is almost no repercussions for committing violent acts. (Bibliography #8)
There have been several recent pieces of legislature that has helped parents fight the inflow of violence and other negative influences in television. Most recently, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has attempted to help parents control what children watch on television. The act mandated that new television be manufactured with a V-chip, which will permit parents to block questionable programs, and that all programs are rated to provide information that can be read by this new device. (Cantor pg.55)
The rating system is based on the Motion Picture Association of America rating system. The television system is broken down as follows: TV-Y: all children, TV-Y7: directed to older children, TV-G: general audience, TV-PG: parental guidance suggested, TV-14, parents strongly cautioned, and TV-MA: mature audience only. (Cantor pg.55)
There have been many questions pertaining to the usefulness of the new legislation. Most of these questions revolve around the rating system that has been adopted. Many critics argue that the new rating system does not help parents because the system does not provide information about the content. Several studies point that parents preferred a rating system that provides information on content, over a recommendation on the age of the child that could watch a program. (Cantor pg.57)
In order to compromise with organizations that were opposed to the age-based system, a compromise system has been adopted. This system supplements the old system by using the following content warnings: V, for violent content; L, for crude language; S, for sexual content; and D, for sexual dialogue or innuendo. In addition, programs aimed at older children, designated with a TV-Y7, may be supplemented with an FV, for fantasy violence. (Cantor pg. 66)
This legislative act has helped parents be able to control what their children. It is still an important aspect of child raising that parents should talk to their children about what they see on television. Being that young children can not differentiate between real and make believe violence, parents should take an active role in educating children about violence. A study by Amy Nathanson explored the link between parental mediation and children s aggression.
Three forms of mediation were examined. Active mediation, or talking to children about TV, restrictive mediation, or setting rules or regulations about children s TV viewing, and coviewing, or simply watching TV with children. (Nathanson pg. 2)
This study, which is supported, by several other studies, found that both active and restrictive mediation decrease children s aggression, while coviewing increases it. (Nathanson pg.14)
It was found that both active and restrictive mediation work by first influencing children s perceived importance of violent TV. Hence, active and restrictive mediation seem to socialize children into an orientation toward violent TV that makes them less vulnerable to its negative effects. (Nathanson pg.14)
Coviewing, by having the parent view this violence with out explaining the actions, may signal that the content is important, useful, and worthy of sustained attention. (Nathanson pg. 4)
As this study shows, parents must take responsibility toward educating their children about the content of television. Without this communication, these violent images can cause children to increase aggressiveness, and increase their appetite for more violence in entertainment and in real life. (Bibliography #8)
Television can be an incredible medium in which children can be positively affected in many different ways. Certain programs have been proven to have a positive affect on both intelligence and socialization. At the same time, violence and adult topics can have a horrible effect on children. Many measures have been adopted recently to increase ways of regulating content for children. In the end, it is the responsibility of the parents to try and instill values and morals so that the negative effects do not overpower the positive effects. In the future, the leaders of government and mass media should try to maximize the potential of this medium. These new regulations are a step in the right direction, but more action is probably needed.
1.) Cantor, Joanne. Ratings for Program Content: The Role of Research Findings. Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science. 557, pp. 54-69, May, 1998.
2.) Everett, Shu-Ling C. Mirage Multiculturalism: Unmasking the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Vol.11, No.1, pp. 28-39, 1996
3.) Huston, C. Aletha, et al. Television and the Informational and Educational Needs of Children. Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science. 557, pp. 9-23, May 1998.
4.) Nathanson, Amy I. Identifying and Explaining the Relationship Between Parental Mediation and Children s Aggression. Communication Research. Vol.26, No. 2, pp. 124-143. April, 1999.
5.) Potter, W. James et al. Considering Policies to Protect Children from TV Violence. Journal of Communication. Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 116-138. Autumn 1996.
6.) Center for Media Education. Web Page. www.cme.org/children/kids_tv
7.) American Academy of Pediatrics. Web Page. www.aap.org/advocasy/childhealthmonth/media.htm