As parent's fears of crime rise, and society becomes less self-protective, children are being increasingly encouraged to spend time indoors rather than exploring alone or with their peers. However, with increasing working time for adults and more frequent family separations, the amount of family interaction time is also falling. With televisions readily available in almost all households, children are often left to pass hours alone in front of a screen.
Television has the benefit of making it extremely easy to use a large amount of time with very little effort and no direct expenditure, and the large amount of channels available make an almost constant stream of watchable programs. However, as mentioned above, television is generally solitary, requires very little user interaction, and has many cases of supposed psychological numbing that are almost constantly being investigated both morally and scientifically.
With television shows targeted to children as young as 1-year parents are asking more questions about how television may be influencing their children. Repeated exposure to any stimulus in a child's environment may forcibly impact mental growth either by setting mental habits of it's own, or by depriving the mind of other experiences. Television encourages intellectual obedience and impulsive (furthermore possibly violent) behavior.
It also serves to deprive the mind of social relationships with friends and family, which promote the brains development and improve a child's ability to solve complex problems and to play. This problem is dramatized by trying to encourage youngsters toward academic learning on television when they should be investigating the three-dimensional world on their own accord. All of this is scientifically proven by a large number of experiments throughout the world There have been many negative outcomes of excessive time in front of a television, most of which have been reported after studies into school children.
An 'epidemic' of attention disorder cases have been reported in American schools (where there is most funding for investigations) with falling academic performances and behavioral problems being highlighted as the most obvious changes. Also highlighted on were 'weak social skills' and 'language difficulties' in reading and oral areas. While these problems are certainly affected by the changing lifestyles of modern people, research clearly supports television as a 'causation' which is particularly evident with children of ages 'critical for language development and manipulative play'.
The impact on children's health can be put into three main groups: Lower Academic Performance: TV is often becoming a replacement for reading at home. Because it requires no in-depth thought and can merely 'pass in one ear and out the other' it often leads to the mind not concentrating on the information from the ears and eyes. A young mind brought up with flashy visual effects often cannot divide his/her attention to listen carefully to language.
When children are then required to read and study text (or even video's) information is often found hard to take in. This is also resultant in a shorter concentration span so when a child is required to 'get into' a book he/she often finds it difficult. More cases of attentive problems: Aside from violence on television, the fast explosive nature of children's television works superbly to involuntarily hold a child's attention (many kids' programs are based around techniques used by the advertising industry).
Such programs do not require the child to use his brain independently as he would in hobbies or social interaction; many cases have shown a visible improvement if the child's TV time was lowered. A perfect example of this sort of program is that of the Pokemon TV series. This has fast moving screens with lots of flashing still frames. This was highlighted with the famous case of a mass epilepsy attack in Japan after a sequence in one episode, which led to hundreds of children being rushed to hospital after having minor fits. Effects on behavior, self-control and moral judgement:
Whilst no conclusive proof has yet been found in this field, there is a large amount of research into whether violence and sex on television can be numbing to a young child's brain, and can lead to him having less feeling towards these events when faced with them in the 'real world'. The average child, with free access to a television, witnesses up to 8,000 televised murders before leaving junior school, and since 1974 there have been over 3000 studies into the connection between TV violence and aggression in the viewers, along with 'copy cat' crimes.
One study by David Phillipps, a scientist at the University of California, claims that after a prize-fight on television the number of murders will be higher than average for the following few days. He also claims that those murdered are often 'similar to the person beaten in the prizefight'. While there is no objective knowledge behind his statement, his belief is enough to warrant an investigation into whether sport, especially of the physical kind, can in itself lead to violence.
However, many people say what is on TV is not the cause of the problem, as much as how parents and teachers control television in relation to other activities. CBS president Howard Stringer points 'I come from a country ... that puts a lot of American movies on and has more graphic violence within its live drama on the BBC than anywhere else, and there is a lot less violence in the United Kingdom than there is here,' and adds 'There are 200 million guns in America, and that has a lot to do with violence'. His colleague Rene Balcer agrees 'What are these kids doing watching eight hours of TV a day? '.
This is also the opinion of many victims of television related crime around the world, as well as a commonly held view within the courts. A case study of the whole of Africa shows alarming figures about homicide rates since the introduction of television in 1974. Before that date Africa's homicide rate was declining even though most other major countries were experiencing more cases of the crime. However, after televisions introduction the homicide rate had increased 56% by 1983, that figure had increased to 130% by 1987. Violence on television is said to 're-calibrate' what is seen as normal behavior and lifestyles.
It leads to a "mean world" syndrome, or belief that the world is a nasty place, which convinces people that violence is not as wrong as law dictates. People are lead to believe that there is more violence in the world than there really is because it is always in their faces on their television. 57% of all TV programs contain violence of some form and an incredible 46% of violence takes place on children's cartoons with 67% of this shown as humorous. Another main criticism of television violence is that the perpetrators are often allowed to escape unpunished for their crimes or are punished in vigilante fashion with more violence.
73% of all people shown breaking laws on television are not punished and some films (such as 'Entrapment') set out to portray the criminals as heroes that 'beat the system'. Television and films have also been used as sources to educate criminals. The trilogy of Scream films have often been blamed for copycat murders, a US judge commenting that they are a 'very good source to learn how to kill someone'. In November 2001, a Belgian lorry driver was accused of the brutal 'copycat' murder of a teenage girl, after first withdrawing to another room to put on a Scream costume.
After the murder he rang his father and a colleague to confess and told police that the murder had been premeditated and motivated by the movie. There is no denying in this case and those similar to it, that the murder clearly had some connection to the relevant film. However the debate is whether the film actually caused the murder to take place or merely played a minor part in it. Even if it is concluded that the film was not the direct cause of the attack it seems likely in this case it was at least a trigger in the lorry drivers mind that may not have been pulled had he not seen the film.
Many critics of the TV/violence link still claim films showing violence are unrelated to cases where they received the blame. In Great Britain major concern was expressed over media violence following press reports that the two videotapes, Child's Play 3 and Juice, influenced the two child killers of the toddler Jamie Bulger, and the killers in two more brutal murders. The two tapes were shown to the Video Consultative Council. No one on the Council could see any relevance to the Bulger killing. Indeed, the teachers on the Council considered that Juice would have considerable educational value for pupils in their last year at school.
The police could find no evidence that the videos were in any way implicated in the killings. This particular case seems to be purely the press jumping onto a bandwagon that may have been little more than an initial lead, it does however, highlight the amount of public feeling about TV related violence. We should however continue to consider the view that TV does not have negative effects on children, or even if we assume there are negative effects we must also consider the benefits modem media provides to our children.
We don't usually think of television as an educator for our children. We think of their most formative experiences as coming from our families, schools and friends, but our children are growing up in an age of media-TV, movies, video games, and now, computers and the Internet. Reverend Jesse Jackson has called TV "the third parent. " One journalist said that TV has become "the loudest voice in many American households. " According to a recent book, teenagers are becoming "screen-agers, receiving most of their information from TV and computer screens.
We must consider the amount of time children spend with television: Children watch an average of three and a half hours of TV each day, or 24 hours per week. Youngsters start watching TV at the age of two and, in some cases, as young as 18 months. By the time children leave senior school they have spent 18,000 hours in front of a TV set, and only 13,000 hours in a classroom. While there is no absolute connection between TV and a negative impact on society as a whole, it seems likely that an activity that takes up more of our time than any other single action (except possibly sleeping) can be having no effect on us.
A report on students from Howard Beach in the US examines the relationship between television viewing and attitudes toward ethnic and racial groups among students in a racially and ethnically mixed New York City high school. It finds that many students treat television entertainment as an accurate representation of real life. Therefore, the ethnic characters shown on television can have a significant effect on students' self-perceptions as well as their perceptions of other ethnic groups. Overall, students approve of television's ethnic characters and consider them typical of their groups.
This finding applies not only to positive characters like Bill Cosby's Cliff Huxtable or Hill Street's Frank Furillo, but even to those who embody negative traits, such as George Jefferson or Taxis Louis DePalma. Further, those who approve of TV characters are most likely to express positive views of the characters' ethnic or racial groups. This suggests that the continuing appearance of an ethic character, positive or negative, may legitimize him or her as an individual worthy of admiration, if not emulation.
Students may thus receive ambiguous moral messages about how ethnic types and people in general should behave. TV is also a very powerful tool for self-educating youngsters. Because young people are often very convinced about what they see on television it is often one of the best mediums for passing important information to a younger generation. The following quotes were from a website commenting on an American television show called The Mix, which addressed various problems associated with teenage life: "I saw the Alcohol show, and it changed my outlook on drinking. I never knew it was that dangerous.
I told all my friends about the show, and about how alcohol is a lot more dangerous than we all thought it was. Thank you so much for that show, it really made me think. " - Meredith "I just finished watching your program on gun violence. I love that you guys are doing something to help young adults know that there is a better way of life than being on the streets and getting into trouble. I'm not one of those kids on the street, but when I see youth my heart goes out to them, because there is more in life than guns, drugs, and alcohol, and your program gives them other choices.
" - Selena As these quotes show this show has clearly influence a number of youngsters in a positive way by educating them and allowing them to make their own choices about their free time and attitudes to everyday situations. This is a far better way to reach young people than preaching or punishment as it lets young people feel they are choosing to look after their bodies and minds rather than being forced to do so, a method which seems to result in rebelliousness past that of the initial problem being addressed.
Throughout this piece I have tried to use a variety of scientific and subjective sources to get a view on whether TV actually does affect children, and on how people feel TV affects children because opinion can often stray a long way from proven fact. I have then tried to lay out this information in a variety of arguments using analogy and inductive debating techniques. Aside from the conclusion most of the information portrayed above is merely my gathered research rather than my own views as it is essential to pool a wide number of resources which allow you to make a fair and educated decision of your own.
And if this is not possible, just allow you to stand in better stead when discussing the issue in the future. To conclude it is necessary to state that 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 viewers use them. Television viewing is not essentially 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 the living environment are very significant to how television can affect children. Most children spend more time with media than in school and much more time with media than in meaningful conversation with their parents.
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 intermediaries 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 power for children's development, the industry has a responsibility for supplying varied, well designed, creative programming rather than programs that are merely designed to keep a child in front of a television, rather than to educate the child while he/she watches.