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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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