The effect of television on our children is an issue that has been widely debated throughout the world. A great deal of research has been conducted on this topic, and psychologists agree that television has the potential to generate both positive and negative effects in young people. A child’s developmental level is a critical factor in determining how deeply the medium affects them. Television has the potential to expose children to inappropriate topics such violence, sexuality and offensive language.
Consequent to the level of violence shown on TV, it has been revealed that there was a gradual increase in crimes in Australia from the year 1995-1998 (UNSW, 1996,Internet). However, despite the negative effects television has had on children, television has also been accepted as a wonderful tool in the instruction of teaching in schools or at home. Children can develop a broader understanding of nature, culture and the environment around them. This essay will discuss the positive and negative effects of television on children and how these effects manifested themselves in today’s society.
The age range for children that will be discussed in this essay is from nine to fourteen years old. Firstly the “level of social and cultural poison is higher today than in the past”, says Garbarino (1999,129). Drive-by fistfights rarely resulted in deaths; but today’s drive-by shootings usually do. Kids are bombarded with warnings about lethal consequences of sex, kidnapping, weapons at school and the high probability of divorce. Adults are less available to nurture their children; fathers too often disappear from their children’s lives after separation and divorce.
According to Garbarino, the lack of adult supervision and time spent doing constructive, cooperative activities are important toxic aspects and compound the effects of other negative influences in the social environment. These and other factors contribute to the documented increases in negative feelings such as apathy, sadness, other forms of emotional distress and behaviour problems among the young. Television has been a major influence on how society behaves.
Recent research conducted by Bandura (2000,59) suggests that televised violence may be responsible for up to 15 percent of violent behaviour in children and teenagers. This suggests that television communicates to a child that violence is the way to resolve a conflict. For many young people television has become a predominant activity in their day, therefore replacing other activities at home such as social interaction with family and friends. Moreover, research carried out by Dr. Elizabeth (1992,11) supports Gabarino’s research by stating, “…
There is no gene for violence. Violence is a learned behaviour, which is often learned in the home environment Children are more aggressive and grow up more likely to become involved in violence either as a victimizer or as a victim–if they witness violent acts” With the amount of television that children watch on a daily basis, violence is constantly being viewed by children, thus playing a part in their behavioural development. The possible reasons for children spending so much time in front of Television are very difficult to figure out.
A survey was conducted by David (1994, 132), who interviewed 30 children and spoke to each separately about how television has influenced their life. Questions were asked such as: How many hours a day do you watch television? Why is it that you enjoy watching T. V so much? What is it that interests you most about the programs? . David found that the most common reason among these children for watching TV was the fact that when they got home after school there was usually no one else there.
Because they were alone with nothing to do, they just turned on the TV and would watch something that interested them until their mum or dad came home from work. David continues to mention that the children believed that when they watch TV they did not feel mentally or physically challenged, therefore allowing them to relax. On a positive note, when monitored by the parents, television can be used as an educational instrument for children. It assists in teaching children about the environment around them. It can also assist in influencing how the children behave.
An example of television being used in this positive manner is the anti-smoking and anti-drink and driving campaigns that the government broadcast. Furthermore, children often acquire a hero from one of the many programs they watch. The child admires this individual/s, may he/she be real or a cartoon, and try to imitate them. This can create serious problems, for instance, especially when the child tries to re-enact action scenes from the program. An example of this was an incident that happened in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Peter, 1996,159) with a little boy who had made Superman his hero.
He enjoyed watching Superman movies and cartoon films. His parents and him were living in a unit in the 8th floor of an apartment building. His mum loved him very much and she always tried to make him happy because he was the only child she had. One day he asked his mum to buy him a superman suit, and she did. A week later the boy was watching the latest Superman movie and he decided to imitate him by jumping off the balcony and trying to fly. He died. This is not an isolated incident. Parents should carefully monitor what their children watch.
Finally, television has become a leading sex educator in Canada today. The average teenager views more than 14,000 sexual references annually (CPA, 2001,Internet). Television exposes children to adult sexual behaviours in ways that portray these actions as normal and risk-free, sending the message that because these behaviours are frequent, everybody does it . So children get influenced by the media and will be excited in trying sex just like the other and that creates serious problems to our children and the society.
Thus, in summary, although television has had detrimental effects on children and the society throughout history, and, in today’s world, people seem to be not considering this as a very serious problem. Television can be viewed as both positive and negative influence on children. A parent’s monitoring of programmes plays a big factor in whether this medium becomes a positive or negative in their child’s life. Moreover, parents must engage their children in conversation about and help them to understand it and what lesson can be learned from it ( The Global Media Atlas,2001,128).