This paper discusses the influence of TV on children, and how it influences their behavior. It also mentions what parents can do to mitigate this influence. (6 pages; 4 sources; APA citation style)
Many studies have shown that television has a negative impact on children and young people. It also appears that parents experience stress when they try to limit children’s television viewing. This paper will explore both of these issues from a psychological viewpoint; in particular it explores behavioral aspects of the issue.
Television is an extremely influential medium, and it shapes the attitudes of children towards many different matters, including sex, violence, eating, spending, and relationships, among others. It can become a sort of distorting prism through which they view the world, expecting that incidents in real life will “play out” the same way they do on the screen. I’d like to explore what sort of psychological effect this immersion in television has on children with regard to behavior. First, let’s look at just how much violence children see on television.
In a study in 1999, Strasburger says that children average 16 to 17 hours of television viewing weekly; when time spent playing video games and watching prerecorded material is added, the total spent in front of the screen can be as much as 35-55 hours per week. (PG).
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Not only does this mean that television has a substantial impact on the attitudes and beliefs of youngsters, it also means that they spend less time playing and getting physical exercise; less time interacting with others in the ‘real world’; and less time reading.
During these hours that they spend in front of the set, youngsters are exposed to 10,000 violent acts per year. (Strasburger, 1999, PG).
The most violent acts of all are those found in programs aimed directly at children: “Most recently, the National Television Violence Study examined nearly 10,000 hours of television programming throughout 3 years and found that 61% contains violence, with children’s programming being the most violent.” (Strasburger, 1999, PG).
(Although Strasburger doesn’t indicate what type of programs these are, they musts surely include cartoons, which are notoriously violent, as well as life-action shows, such as the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”) But does the violence they see on screen lead children to commit violent acts. Apparently, the answer is yes.
“The research is voluminous and very clear on the relationship between media violence and real-life aggression: a cause-and-effect relationship exists. …
“After 10 more years of research, the consensus among most of the research community is that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs. This conclusion is based on laboratory experiments and on field studies. Not all children become aggressive, of course, but the correlations between violence and aggression are positive. …
“Taken together, the research data are persuasive that high levels of television viewing are causally related to aggressive behavior and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes.” (Strasburger, 1999,PG).
This last comment, that young people have an “acceptance of aggressive attitudes,” explains a great deal. Television teaches that violence is an acceptable solution to almost every problem; the “good buy” beats up the “bad guy” and everything’s fine. Using aggression as a solution to every problem is hardly a desirable way to handle the complex problems of modern society. Further, this “good guy” vs. “bad guy” model can “desensitize” viewers so that they become “used” to violence; it also leads to perceptions that the world is a much more dangerous place than it really is.
... violence from television when it is ultimately the parents' responsibility for rearing their children? The parent can select all the positive television ... to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in society...Television violence affects youngsters ... C. Strasburger Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of New Mexico, "American children and ...
These outcomes have been noted by others:
“Inappropriate viewing is related to … greater fears, desensitization to violence, and more aggressive behaviors in children. Unfortunately, the majority of parents do not realize this. Having their children watch television has become an acceptable and convenient part of parenting.” (Vessey, 1998, PG).
Strasburger refers to Bandura’s famous experiment in which he showed children a film of his assistant hitting and kicking a BoBo doll (a rubber doll that bounces back up when it’s knocked down).
He then took the children into another room with such a doll in it, and without any prompting, or without seeing the video again, the children began to hit and kick the doll, just as Bandura’s assistant had done. This behavior is called modeling, and it’s very powerful. It is precisely because children imitate behavior after having seen it only once that makes television’s influence so problematic.
These findings probably come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the debate; it’s fair to assume that most parents and teachers are aware of these facts. But Strasburger’s article indicates that parents may not know the extent of the problem, or how to handle it. He says, “Most parents do not control the media their children or adolescents are exposed to with any consistency or regularity.” (1999, PG).
Further, and probably most indicative of the extent of the problem, parents underreport the number of hours their children watch television. This means that the parents are not really aware of their children’s viewing habits. In addition, a large number of children (one-fourth of preschoolers, one-third of grade-schoolers, and more than half of high school students) have their own television. These sets are in the children’s rooms, which means that they watch alone, and sometime watch programs that are inappropriate for their age group. When children isolate themselves for solo viewing, and parents allow them to do so, they (the parents) miss out on one of the best ways to interact with their children: coviewing.
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“Coviewing is thought to be an effective mechanism for mediating untoward effects of television viewing: an adult, watching a program with a child and discussing it with him or her, serves simultaneously as a values filter and a media educator.” (Strasburger, 1999, PG).
Coviewing would seem to be a reasonable approach to the problem of inappropriate television watching, since the medium is not going to go away.
Vessey (above) raises the point that television is now an acceptable part of child-rearing; the “electronic babysitter” is ubiquitous. But by abrogating their responsibilities, parents add to the unfavorable outcomes of their children.
Other sources confirm what Strasburger and Vessey have said: unsupervised television viewing is not good for children. It is a negative influence because it reduces the time they spend on homework; it is a passive medium; and it presents violent characters as desirable role models. (Leung, 1994, PG).
Even more surprising and disturbing is the fact that parents are not always aware of just how great an effect television has on their youngsters. (Children, adolescents and television, 1995, PG).
Television can be an extremely creative and entertaining medium, though such programs are rare. Unfortunately, TV is much more widely known for its negative effects on children. It promotes stereotypical thinking; passive viewing; and often presents violence as a solution to every problem.
In addition, it is now acceptable for parents to use the television as a sort of “babysitter.” It enables them to have a few free minutes in their hectic lives, by keeping the children entertained and out of the way. However, unless parents watch TV with their children, the latter are likely to be negatively affected by what they see.
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Leung, A.K.C., Fagan, J.E., Cho, H. Lim, S.H.N. and Robson, W.L.M. children and television. American Family Physician. 1994; 50: 909-915. Retrieved 26 Oct 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA:
Strasburger, V.C. and Donnerstein, E. Children, adolescents and the media: issues and solutions. Pediatrics. 1999; 103:129+. Retrieved 26 Oct 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA: http://web6.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/368/726/40631390w6/purl=rc1_ITOF_0_A53668214&dyn=6!xrn_14_0_A53668214?sw_aep=sddp_main
Vessey, J.A., Yim-Chiplis, P.K. and MacKenzie, N.R. Effects of television viewing on children’s development. Pediatric Nursing. 1998; 23: 483-487. Retrieved 26 Oct 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA: