Television Influence Essay, Research Paper
Television influences behaviors, social attitudes and physical health especially
in children. Children today spend more time watching television than on any
other single leisure activity. In fact, studies have shown that "the
average child spends more time in front of the television than in school"
(Clarke and Kurte-Coastes, 1997). There are a variety of influences that
children gain from watching too much television. The impact of violence on
children is a major issue, as well as the impact of stereotypical views, such as
sex roles. Health can also become a problem for children who spend excessive
amounts of time in front of the television. There are, however, alternatives to
these problems. Parent, schools and the governments need to take control and
monitor children and television. After all, television was once used as an
educational tool it has only recently become a babysitter. The effect of
violence in television has been debated for many years. In a recent study,
Strasburger and Donnerstein (1999), suggests that there is a positive
correlation between violence viewed on television and aggressive behavior in
children. The way television violence is portrayed encourages children to learn
aggressive attitudes and behaviors. For example most violence on television is
glamorized by using a "good" character that is likely to be perceived
as role model to initiate violence. This gives children the impression that
violence is justified, desirable, and painless. Violence on television also
increases fear or gives children the wrong impression about the world. Many
children have a hard time making distinctions about what is real and unreal.
Therefore, they begin to believe that the television depicts violence in the
"real world." The bottom line is, "children learn their attitudes
about violence at a very young age, and once learned, the attitudes tend to be
life-long" (Strasburger and Donnerstein, 1999). Television also encourages
stereotyped opinions on topics such as sex roles. Research shows that children
who spend more time watching television tend to think that both women and men
have specified roles in the world (Kent and Moy, 1999). Television usually
portrays women as passive and weak compared to men who are usually depicted as
strong and dominant (Steinberg and Kincheloe, 1997). This gives children a clear
impression of what is expected of them in society. It insists that they too
should act this way because it is, after all, what society views appropriate.
Television even pushes children toward specific sex role using toys. Most toy
commercials, for example, even insist that some toys are only for girls while
others are only for boys. Children are very rarely encouraged to play with toys
that are known to be for the opposite sex. For example, boys aren’t aloud to
play with dolls and girls aren’t aloud to play with trucks. Television also
emphasizes the importance of physical beauty. Stress is placed on looking a
certain way, whether it is having the right clothing or being a certain weight.
These are influences that children take very seriously considering that most
children want to be the "popular" one in school. Take the Mighty
Morphine Power Rangers, for example, the female good rangers are viewed
typically as beautiful and perfect. The female villains are typically viewed as
"repulsive" and are teased. In most schools this is the " kind of
schoolyard harassment to which unpopular girls are subjected" (Steinberg
and Kincheloe, 1997). Television also takes a major toll on a child’s physical
health. Obesity in children is rising and television is being credited in
playing apart. One reason may be that children are spending less time on
physical activities, such as, swimming and riding bikes (Vecchine, 1997).
Evidence also shows that children like to snack while watching television, which
can add to the weight especially for those children who do not do much physical
activity. Commercials on television also play a part in weight gain among
children. Commercials tend to enhance a child’s craving for the food products
being advertised which persuades children to buy their food. In most cases the
food advertised on television is high in calories and fat, which adds weight
(Anonymous, 1999). Although television influences many children all over the
world there are alternatives to the problem. Starting at home parents need to be
aware of what their children are watching, as well as how many hours are spent
watching television. More importantly parents need to take time to watch and
discuss the programs with their children. (victor stasburger and edward
donnerstein, 7). This allows for the children, especially the smaller ones who
have a hard time differentiating reality form fiction, to make distinctions.
Schools can also play a role in preventing the problem by accommodating children
with media education. Schools need to redirect negative education into
knowledgeable information. Just because a television program may not be
educational does not mean a student cannot learn from it. An non-educational
show can be turned into a learning tool that will teach children how to think
critically by analyzing the program at hand. The federal government also plays
an important role. They have already begin to help by passing the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, which makes rating possible and V-chips a must.
V-chips are now mandatory for television sets build starting September 1997.
Both V-chips and ratings allow parents to safeguard their children against shows
that they think are inappropriate for them to watch. Lastly the entertainment
industry needs to examine their motives. What do they want to teach children?
They need to take into consideration the harm they may be causing children by
airing a program with too much violence and profanity. During the so-called
"family hour" (the hours between 8:00pm and 9:00pm), "objectable
material such as foul language, violent incidents and lewd references to sexual
activity went up 75%" (Bozell, 1999). According to Strasburger and
Donnerstein (1999), children watch between 16-17 hours of television a week.
Taking this into consideration, producers need to think about the impact it
might have on children’s future behaviors, after all, children are the future.
Though much of the research has shown the downside to television there is an
upside. Television once upon a time was considered to be a great educator
especially for those who were economically disadvantaged. In fact education was
the main emphasis for the television show "Sesame Street." It was
suppose to teach "intellectual skills and knowledge relevant to success in
school. It brought a new level of teaching to those who otherwise wouldn’t have
necessarily gotten it before they entered preschool. Research even suggested
that kids would remember more of their teaching from a video versus hearing it
(Anderson, 1998). As previously stated, television can also be used by schools
as learning tools to educate children to think critically. By analyzing programs
such as "Beavis and Butthead" which tend to have no educational value
whatsoever, children can walk away with a lesson and not a bad influence. In
conclusion, television has taken away precious time that children can otherwise
be reading, writing or exploring new things in their environment. Television is
teaching our future children that violence is accepted and in some cases
desirable. It influences children decisions about who they are and what they
want to be. It has also taken a toll on physical health of young children.
Television was once an educator, but overtime is gradually ruining our youth.
The bottom line is we need to educate our youth and redirect the negative
influences of television into positive activities
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