Television And Society Essay, Research Paper
The commercial use of television began in 1946 and has continued to grow through the rest of the century. Television has changed how society spends its leisure time; how it feels about politics, how much people read, how its children are raised and how its culture is expressed (S5 p.701). The power that television has to influence people in various ways lies mainly in the fact that people spend a lot of time watching it (S7 p.8). So one can see why the type of programming being shown is so very important to society. Television has frequently been blamed as being the breeding grounds for all types of social ills (S7 p.71). The introduction of television has coincided with rises in crime and in other incidences of social disruption in many countries (S7 p.72). Television has had a negative effect on American society, especially in the areas of child rearing, marriage and sex, and violence.
The effect of television on children and adolescents had been more worried and studied over than any other cultural phenomenon (S8 p.114). Only four years after the commercial release of television, there was already evidence of TV interfering with children?s schoolwork. A study showed that, in 1950, children spent almost as much time watching television as they did attending school. The majority of the students studied admitted that television often interferes with their homework (S5 p.677). More recently, a survey showed that a third of children ages two to seven, and two-thirds of all children eight and older have a television in their bedroom. The typical American child under eight years of age spends about five and one-half hours per day watching television. For children over eight, the time jumps to almost seven hours per day. The typical American teenager spends the equivalent of a full day at the office in front of the television. But the most frightening part of these results is that half of the parents surveyed in this study reported that they had no rules about television (S8 p.114) Without parental guidance, children are receiving images that are absolutely inappropriate. And the most frightening of all these statistics are some of the responses children gave when asked about giving up television: ?If I had to give up TV, I don?t know what I?d do,? and ?Life without TV would not be worth it (S7 p. 35).?
Children also witness many acts of violence on television. Children are very poor at distinguishing fact from fantasy in what they see on television (S7 p.43). Regardless of social class, or race, there are relationships that are found between aggressiveness and exposure to television violence (80). Michael A. Howe said, in his book Television and Children, that ?if a child comes to believe that acting violently is the normal way of dealing with?problems, and at the same time learns how to act violently from watching violent situations on television, he will be more likely to acquire violent habits?(75).? Seeing violence on television makes children more apt to become violent, as they get older.
Television has the ability to introduce children to frightening events, ideas and images, many of which they would not otherwise encounter at all (S6 p.3). With programs like ?Buffy the Vampire Slayer?, ?The X-Files? and even ?Unsolved Mysteries?, it is no wonder that children become frightened. From her fifteen years of research on mass media and children?s fears, Joanne Cantor is convinced that TV programs are the number one preventable cause of nightmares and anxieties in children (5). Children do not realize that the images they view on television are not reality. They become so frightened that it can actually make them physically ill. There have been several instances where young people had to
be hospitalized for several days or weeks after watching horror movies such as ?The Exorcist? or ?Invasion of the Body Snatchers (13).? But these are extreme cases. In most instances, a few nights sharing a bed with mom and dad will help. Television admits children to a world beyond their usual environment (8).
Television images present an insecure picture of marriage and intimate relationships. Television portrays a number of divorced or separated characters that make references to unhappy marriages (S9 p. 121). These characters reduce the confidence of young people. When all they see is failing marriages, they start to think that maybe it is just not worth it to get married. College students who are heavy viewers of soap operas were more likely than light viewers of these programs to believe that marriages are fragile, that more people are divorced, have affairs, and have illegitimate children (141). On television today, there is an obsession with sexual relationships. Since the 1970?s, sexual content on television has risen steadily and is now a stable part of most television programs. With it, the number of people having sex with multiple partners has risen as well. When sexual activity is shown on television, it is most likely to take place between unmarried partners with numerous adulterous liaisons. Television is the most common and persuasive source of ideas and actions related to marriage and
intimate relationships (121). So it is easy to see why many so many people are very unsure when it comes to marriage and sex.
Violence on television is one of the most talked about subjects today. This topic has even been one of the deciding factors in some recent political elections. The preference for watching violent television contributed to the development of aggressive habits (S7 p.84). And the issue of violence on television is not new. Only six years after the commercial release of television, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives condemned the production of violent crime shows on television (S5 p.717). A study done in the spring of 1971 showed that between the hours of 4pm and 11pm, there were an average of seven violent acts shown per hour. Cartoons are undoubtedly the most violen