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Media Effects On Children Essay, Research Paper

Television and other media have major influences on the modifiable children of today; nevertheless, the gradual mind-manipulation process is often neglected. For teenagers, peers can play a powerful role; but the media, too, often influences them. Unhealthy attitudes learned from the media during childhood may be put into action during adolescence, with adverse consequences. Although there remains considerable controversy about the media and their effects on human behavior, much information is already known, either directly through research or intuitively.

Television is by far the most significant medium by time criteria alone. American children and adolescents spend twenty-two to twenty-eight hours per week viewing television–more time than any other activity except sleeping (Bandera 98). However, the real question is, What, exactly, are media teaching children? Given the sheer amount of time that American young people spend with this medium, one might think that its influence would be a forgone conclusion. Nevertheless, to date, television remains dismissed by many observers as “mere entertainment” or “fantasy.” Unfortunately, children and adolescents do not view it as either. Perhaps many adults are quick to decline the influence of television because they do not want to admit that they, too, have been influenced by it. For children, television represents the real world and gives secret glimpses of teenage and adult behavior, which appears attractive to curious minds.

The role-modeling aspect of television, although frequently overlooked, is crucial to understanding its influence. Children, in particular, learn to behave by imitating attractive role models, include those present on the screen of their living room as well. Contrary to popular belief, people rarely imitate what they see in the media immediately and directly. Rather, television exerts a far more subtle and insidious effect by shaping viewers’ attitudes and perception of social norms (Rockwell). One group of researchers refers to this as “stalagmite effects–cognitive deposits built up almost imperceptibly from the drip-drip-drip of television’s electronic limewater” (Gerber 135). For example, television may offer older children and younger adolescents scripts about gender roles, conflict resolution, and patterns of courtship and sexual gratification that they may be unable to observe anywhere else.

America’s apparent love affair with guns is frequently played out on prime-time television. At the same time that there has been an increase in the number of reported violent acts directed at children, there has been an increase in the amount and severity of violent acts observed by children through the media, including television, movies, computer games, and videotapes, and an increase in the manufacture and distribution of weapon-like toys and other products directly linked to violent programming. During early childhood, the foundation is laid for future social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. During this formative period, young children are particularly vulnerable to negative influences. In most instances, children have no control over the environmental messages they receive. Up until age seven or eight, children have great difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality (Dietz 27), and their ability to comprehend nuances of behavior, motivation, or moral complexity is limited. For instance, researchers found that the youngsters who watched the Batman and Superman cartoons were more physically active, both in the classroom and on the playground. Also, they were more likely to get into fights and scrapes with each other, play roughly with toys, break toys, snatch toys from others, and get into little altercations. (Dietz 30) This special vulnerability of children necessitates increased vigilance to protect them from potentially negative influences. Moreover, sufficient evidence has convinced psychological researchers that there is a long-term effect of early violence viewing on later aggressive behavior.

Nowadays, children are growing up in a society of ever-increasing racial and ethnic diversity. While diversity is seen in many children’s lives, the question remains whether this diversity is reproduced in the media. Children’s television is dominated by white male figures, who represent seventy-five to ninety percent of all characters (Barson 114). In addition, cartoons are rich in stereotypes, with villains usually possessing nonwhite features and speaking in foreign accents. For children who are trying to figure out their place in the adult world, they often identify their social units through media. Through the channel media, innocent children are somewhat influenced to think that race links with personal worth, intelligence, eligibility for friendship and marriage, and a host of other traits (Healey 24). For example, given to an African American girl the choices of Barbie dolls among different ethnicity, the girl picked white because it is prettier. Because of media, the picture of blacks as criminals and whites as heroes has become a symbol, and the image is existentially bonded to the thoughts of children.

The nation s children and adolescents are consuming media images in steadily increasing numbers, and they will soon settle as the prevalent audience for every media distribution. Heavy consumers of television may begin to believe that the world is a more brutal place than it really is. While violence and prejudice are acceptable, the media have gradually molded the stereotypes of cultural and ethical norm in the minds of children. It is their hearts, minds, and souls, that are the most conscious and the most vulnerable to the power of this medium.

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