Television A Positive Or Negatative Impact

Television: A Positive Or Negatative Impact On Children Essay, Research Paper

Television: A posotive or negative impact on childrenTelevision: A positive or

negative impact on children


Do children learn from television? Are some children more drawn to television

than others? Do infants and toddlers pay attention to and understand television?

Which type of television programming are most effective with children? Do the

behavior in television shows provide a model for the behavior of a child? Does

advertising on television affect children? Do children obtain a “release or

“purging” of their emotions from their vicarious involvement in television

shows? Does the content of television entertainment affect a child’s conception

of his or her own sex roles and his or her feelings toward his or her ethnicity?

Does it affect his or her conception of opposite sex roles? Which activities in

a child’s life are replaced by television viewing? Does watching a lot of

television affect a child’s ability to read? Does it affect his or her

preference for reading? Does it affect the amount of time he or she usually

spends with books? How does television viewing fit into family life? Within the

family, who chooses the programs to be watched? Do children accept the racial

stereotypes they see on television? Do they accept the national and religious

stereotypes? Do children in different socioeconomic statuses typically have

different habits of watching television? Do intelligent children differ from not

so bright children in their use of television? Which techniques of television

production increase children’s interest and attentiveness? Can young children

watch television while simultaneously engaging in activities not related to

television? Do children accept the stereotypes of occupations presented on

television? (Murray 1)

These are just some of the questions that researchers have tried to answer over

the years pertaining to children and television. In today’s media age, it is no

surprise that people are becoming more and more concerned with how television

can affect children. Television is often referred to as the ‘electronic

babysitter’ because it is often used to entertain children when parents have

other things that they need to do. From my own experiences and observations I

can say with great certainty that television is becoming more and more a part of

the lives of children.

That is why I chose this topic for my thesis. It is important that going into an

industry like broadcasting I am aware that the things people take for granted

when putting shows on the air may have a profound (or not so profound) impact on

someone’s life.

Television can have a positive or negative impact on a child. It all depends on

many different levels of variables. These variables can include gender,

socioeconomic status, race, religion, age, hair color, or anything else that may

make one person different from another. For example, a girl with blond hair may

feel that she too may not be so bright after viewing an episode of Married with

Children. This example, although a bit far-fetched, demonstrates the idea of how

children’ s views of themselves may be effected by television. There are many

classic examples that people can use when trying to argue that television can

have a negative impact on children. One example that I’m sure most people are

familiar with is the case in which a five-year-old Ohio boy set his trailer home

on fire, killing his baby sister. His mother immediately blamed the incident on

the animated MTV show Beavis and Butthead, a show that features two teenage boys

prone to bouts of pyromania. MTV argued that Beavis and Butthead come on late in

the evening, usually after 10 PM. At that time of night, what the child was

watching should have been being monitored because most shows that are on that

late at night are intended for more mature audiences.

That raises another age-old question. How much responsibility is to be placed on

the broadcasters and how much should be placed on the parents? Rightfully so, if

parents want their children to watch educational shows on television they should

be available. However, should broadcasters have to limit what they show on

television because of children?

As I did my research for this paper, I set out to find research that proves that

television can have a positive effect on children. I did find research to

substantiate this, which I will get into later on in the paper, but first I want

to discuss why I chose to go that route. I think that it is easy to blame

television or, the media in general for the plagues that ail society today. As a

young woman choosing to go into this field, I don’t feel that this is

necessarily the case at all. I do think that the media should take some

responsibility for what they show, but they are not totally to blame for the

problems in society.

Technology, Television and Society – A brief summary of how television (and

other forms of mass media get integrated into society, and the effect that they


Media is presented through various forms of technology. As new technology is

introduced, we as a society must either adapt to it or we could end up being

left behind. According to media researcher Cecilia Tichi, new technological

advancements go through three stages of socialization while being integrated

into our day to day lives. The three stages are:

1. Initiation

2. Naturalization

3. Defamiliarization

The introduction of a new technology medium is referred to as initiation. This

is not an easy process as the vast majority of people are resistant to change.

The new medium remains a mystery to many people until they are able to overcome

their fears of it.

The introduction of television in the early forties provided confusion and

apprehension. People were accustomed to hearing stories on the radio and now

suddenly they could visually watch them too. This was too much for many people

to digest. The fear of television was not only of what could be seen, but also

of the actual set itself.

Something about having this large box in their living room caused a sense

unease. Much of the uneasy feelings which were felt, were forms of fear. Fear of

what role the television would play in their lives, how it would affect their

family, what type of morals would it teach, and exactly what it was. After all,

TV was known as the “biggest window in the world.”

Dumont attempted to overcome these fears by creating an advertising company to

inform the public and educate. This was all in attempt to help the people

understand the role television could play in their lives.

Naturalization is the biggest stage in a medium’s life. Once a medium is

integrated into our lives, this form of technology becomes part of the natural

order in our day to day activities. At this point the medium affects language,

social norms, and can even replace human interaction.

How can a technological medium affect our language you say? We all can remember

the movie “Valley Girl,” if not, perhaps the more recent movie “Clueless.” These

movies encoded new phrases such as “What-ever” and “As if!” which were quickly

integrated into day to day conversation, therefore causing a change in our

language and in human interaction.

Television affected social norms. TV guide published a list of etiquette rules

for unwanted guests who stopped by to watch TV in the early to mid-sixties.

Television also created a whole new form of dining with Campbell’s introduction

of TV dinners in the 60’s. Instead of dinner at the dining room table, people

began eating TV dinners on their shiny new TV trays right in front of the

television. Television can all be used to replace human interaction. An example

of decreased human interaction that I mentioned earlier is when people allow

their television to act as a babysitter for their children. Barney (as annoying

as some adults find him) is now available to tell night-time bedtime stories to

children by simply popping a tape into the VCR.

Once the medium has been naturally integrated into our lives, there comes a time

when we want more. We become bored with the same old shows, programming, actors,

content and demand to see more. How do we make our demands? Well, several ways.

But mainly by not tuning in. In response to these demands, formats are

constantly being changed, programs upgraded, and new approaches to the same

medium are being created. All of this happens to inspire new interest in the

medium, or for companies to keep the advantage against competitors.

These three stages of interaction are constantly occurring at different levels

for all mediums. Economic status has the largest bearing on which stage a person

is in. For example, the new HDTV (High Definition Television). I’m sure that

when the price decreases, as with most electronic or technologically advanced

items, the popularity of them will increase. People just have to be able to

afford them first.

Children, Television and Violence

Whenever the thought of how television affects children pops into someone’s

mind, the first thing that they think about is the amount of violence on

television. Most mass communication scientists, as well as most people in

general tend to feel that the more violence a child witnesses on television, the

more aggressive he or she becomes. Over 1000 studies have been done to confirm

this link.

People believe that essentially, media violence legitimizes and contributes to a

culture of violence and the acceptance of violence as an effective solution to

problems. The National Coalition on Television Violence have created media

violence guidelines which describe violent acts as those that involve an agent

and a victim, contain an expression of overt force, and are committed with

deliberate and hostile intent. NCTV guidelines do not include accidents,

emotional displays, horseplay, slapstick, treats, and sports activities as acts

of violence.

Accepting this definition of media violence, it is said that by age 18, the

average American child will have viewed about 200,000 acts of violence on

television alone. The level of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is

higher than the level of violence during prime time. There are 3 to 5 violent

acts per hour in prime time, versus 20 to 25 acts per hour on Saturday morning.

One of the major problems with television violence, especially in cartoons, is

that it fails to show the consequences of violence. As a result, children don’t

learn the real consequences of violence. Whether or not television violence

produces violent people is disputable. Media violence, in my opinion, can not be

said to have a direct effect on viewer actions. However, many people share the

abundance of violence does have an effect on our mental well being. Such

messages reinforce beliefs that the world is a violent and generally unsafe

place, violence is an effective solution to problems, and violence is safe,

gratifying, glamorous, and again, often have no apparent consequences.

Albert Bandura, a professor at Stanford University, did one of the first

experiments that dealt with trying to prove the relationship between violence on

television and aggression in children. Bandura showed a clip of a man beating a

“bobo” doll to a number of children. He then left the each child alone in a room

with a “bobo” doll. At one point the children would start to beat up the doll,

reenacting what they had saw being done in the clip.

A case study done by Aletha Huston-Stein and her colleagues assessed the effects

of viewing both violent or nonviolent (prosocial) television programming. In

this study, about one hundred pre-school aged children enrolled in a nursery

school at Penn State University were divided into three groups and were assigned

to watch a particular diet of programming. The children watched either a diet of

Batman and Superman cartoons, a diet of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, or a diet

of neutral programming (programs designed for pre-schoolers that contained

neither violence nor prosocial messages).

Huston-Stein and her colleagues observed the youngsters on the playground and in

the classroom for two weeks to assess the level of aggressive and helpful

behavior displayed by the children. Then the children viewed the program diet

one half hour a day, three days a week for four weeks. They watched twelve

half-hour episodes of the diet to which they were assigned.

The researched found that the youngsters who watched the Batman and Superman

cartoons were more physically active, both in the classroom and on the

playground. Also, they were more likely to get into fights and arguments with

each other, play roughly with toys, break toys, snatch toys from others, and get

into little altercations. No mass murders broke out, but they were simply more

aggressive and had more aggressive encounters. The other group that watched

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was much more likely to play cooperatively with

their toys, spontaneously offer to help the teacher, and engage in what might be

called “positive peer counseling”. In this latter instance, the focus of Mister

Rogers’ sessions was similar to peer counseling. That is being kind, being

sensitive to others needs, and being concerned about others feelings. For

example, Fred Rogers might suggest that if someone looks sad, you could say,

“Gee, you look sad today, are you feeling okay? Do you want to go play or do


The group that watched the neutral programming was neither more aggressive nor

more helpful. However, what is interesting about this study is that it shows

both sides of the coin. What children watch does affect them, both positively,

as in the case of the children who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and

negatively, as in the case of the children who watched the Batman and Superman

cartoons. (Murray ) There is a wide range of studies similar to the Bandura and

Huston-Stein project that addresses the short-term effects of children viewing


Children, Television and Literacy

One theory that interested me when it came to children, television and literacy

is the interest stimulation theory. This theory looks at television as a

positive thing in the lives of children. According to this theory, television

introduces children to new ideas and topics that they ordinarily might not get

exposed to. In turn, if the presentation of the idea is done interestingly

enough it sparks the child’s interest in the topic causing him or her to go out

seeking more information about this.

Television’s persuaders and entertainers opened up new gateways of learning for

children. No longer were they confined to their immediate environment. With

television, many of the conceptual and logical barriers to extending children’s

experiences posed by other media were virtually swept away. Its very

accessibility meant that children were exposed to ideas, events, and places that

were once reserved for adults alone.

The interest stimulation theory proposes that television can enhance learning by

stimulating children’s interests, therefore creating a hunger for further

information. For example, once having viewed a program on a given topic,

children will be more likely to display a greater interest in the classroom.

Similarly, they will read a book if they have seen the movie or the television

show based on it. This theory implicitly states that interests lead to action.

In this respect, the benefits of television are potentially two-fold. By

stimulating new interests, young viewers will gain knowledge and then try to

obtain even further knowledge on these same topics.

Exactly what kinds of interests does television spark? Hope that television

might stimulate children to learn about topics as unexpected as archeology were

countered by the corresponding fear that they might be learning the wrong kinds

of things. The interest stimulation theory, therefore, has undergone a rather

complex history. Initial research focused on the interests and knowledge gained

incidentally through television. Himmelweit, Oppenheim, and Vince (1958), for

example, analyzed the extent to which television stimulated children to take up

new hobbies and interests. The 1970’s and early 1980’s, however saw an

unprecedented effort to use television intentionally as a powerful motivating

force to influence the learning goals in the schools. Here, teachers were

encouraged to directly intervene by linking children’s interest in television

and specific areas of school curricula such as social studies and language arts.

(Literacy )

There have been many instances in which I have seen this theory put into

practice. One such way that I saw is called ‘Cable in the Classroom’. Although

it usually comes on at weird hours of the morning, educators (teachers,

principles, etc.) are encouraged to tape these shows and show them in the

classroom to spark interest and discussion. The topics of these programs can

range from ‘the dangers of drugs’ to the history of spiders’.


Television as a medium is neither good nor bad; its effects and value depend on

the types of programs broadcast and the ways in which they are used by viewers.

Television viewing is not inherently passive. Children are often cognitively

active while they view; they make choices about when and what to watch that

depend on their understanding and interests. Nevertheless, in the early years,

children’s exposure to television depends most importantly on their families. In

turn, family patterns are partly governed by the social institutions and

conditions in which they live. Again those variables like socioeconomic status

and just the living environment are very pertinent to how television can affect


The early years are a critical time for the socialization of television viewing

habits. Children learn about what to watch and how much to watch through the

example set by parents. Much of their exposure to adult programs is a direct

result of viewing choices made by others in their families. Parents who are

selective or restrictive influence their children’s viewing patterns, but their

own viewing also serves as a powerful model for their children. Although

families are crucial mediators of their children’s exposure to television, their

choices are constrained by decisions in the broadcasting industry about what to

produce and broadcast and by the time requirements of jobs and schools. If

television is to become a more positive force for children’s development, the

industry has a responsibility for supplying varied, well-designed, creative

programming rather than To view the rest of this essay you must be a screwschool

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