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Television And The World Essay, Research Paper

Steve Smith

English 201

Television and other aspects of the media have such a great influence on children?s thoughts and behaviors. Media also has put stereotypes on women in the media and this also has a huge effect on the thoughts and beliefs of children. Children spend an average of 16 hours a week watching television, if you add movies to the mix they spend as many as 55 hours in front of the television. Other parts of the media play just as important roles in the lives of children. The Internet allows adolescents to view pornography with the push of a button. Everything that a child hears and views over the course of a day give them a self-perceived notion of the way the media decides to portray women. Children have almost no chance to decide in what to believe in and what not believe in. The effect of what children learn when they are young can and probably will be harmful to them when they become older.

Over the course of one year children will view nearly 15,000 sexual references. The family hour (8-9 P.M.) contains an average of eight sexual incidents. Studies have shown that teenagers who watch soap operas and MTV have increased amounts of sexual experiences. The same study also showed that not one person believed that their favorite soap opera stars would use any type of birth control. Shows have yet to feature any possible risks or responsibilities while being sexually active. A study of television has concluded that although two-thirds of primetime programming contain sexual content, less than one in ten feature the possible risks or responsibilities associated with sexual activity. Lower (1999). If birth control is not shown being used in the media then why will teenagers believe in using it? Hardly ever after a sexual encounter on television does a problem come up, whether it be pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease. Children do notice this and believe that nothing bad can result from having intercourse. “Whether they mean to or not, television shows are communicating important messages about sex to their viewers,” said Vicki Rideout, director of the foundations program on the entertainment media and public health. In addition , the united states continue to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the western world, despite the fact that American teenagers are not having intercourse in greater numbers than their world peers. (White) The high pregnancy rate in the United States has to do with not enough access to birth control and not enough knowledge about sex. There are still people who believe that sex should be taught at home and not through the use of the media. Lower (1999). Dick Wolf executive producer of “Law and Order” said, ” I think that the producers primary responsibility is to entertain, I?m really troubled by the fact that we are supposed to send a message.” Arguments were made after the show “Felicity” a teen oriented show featured a demonstration on how to use condoms. “There are still many people out there who believe the less said the better”, stated Jamie Kellner the network chief executive producer at Warner Brothers. So what can America do? It seems that however the media portrays sex that there will be critics against what the media is doing. MTV, the most watched network among teenagers, constantly has shows on that have to do with sex. As of recently MTV has put on such shows as “Loveline” which discuss? sexual issues and problems with callers usually between the ages of 17-25. On the spring break special MTV had a habit of showing women taking of their tops for the camera and even had a contest with a man and a women to see which couple could change into each other?s swimming suits the fastest in a Volkswagen bug. The point of showing these types of things are only for ratings and gives the young Americans who watch this the wrong idea of what is out there. Wisocki (1982) found among 78 college students, that holding sexually stereotypic views of themselves was positively associated with watching programs with stereotypical sex-role portrayals, but not with over all television watching. Which proves that if sex is not on television views of young adults will be more thought out and be their own beliefs rather than what the media wishes for them to believe.

Many will argue the characters on television and their behaviors can affect the knowledge of their younger viewers. Bandura (1977) Children admire actors from their favorite shows and movies and very often will do anything in their power to look and act like them. Boys learn at a very young age that to be a man one must fight and kill in shows that they are viewing. Incidents in recent years have even led to deaths. An example would be in 1991 a young boy in Connecticut watched an episode of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and then went outside only to beat the neighbor child up until he died. When asked why he did he said because the ninja turtles did. This could be the same reason why teenagers decide to have sex. When they see such popular teen shows as “Party of Five” and “Beverly Hills 90210″ having sexual encounters and not having any sexual transmitted diseases or a pregnancy then they to believe that having sex can lead to almost nothing bad. If shows that aim them selves to the younger audience, would take a stand and incorporate sexual education into the program then teens would be more likely to be safer when deciding to or when having intercourse. Research done by Downing (1974) found that 29.5% of women on day time television to be playing the role of housewife. A study by Signorelli (1989) found that women are also portrayed as younger than their men counterparts and most are almost always under the age of fifty. Children can receive all the wrong messages when watching shows with these types of situations. A study done by Cordua (1981) showed preschool children and first grade students a video showing a female doctor and a male nurse. They found that the majority of the children recalled the male as the doctor. He concluded that one of the most difficult tasks of counterstereotyping is to dissuade children out of their beliefs of the roles of males in our society. Singer and Singer (1981) conducted more research with preschool aged girls. This study showed that young girls are now all emulating the behaviors of Wonder Women, Charlie?s Angels, and Bionic Women. This shows that young girls now have role models to look up to that are doing the same types of things the males are doing in the media. Dominick (1992) in a study showed a noticeable consistency in gender roles published between 1970 and the early 1990?s. Results showed that more women on television in the 1980?s were portrayed as working in contrast to the women of the 1960?s and the 1970?s. However women are still underrepresented and still appear to hold a lower status position than men.

Television?s impact on children is largely based on the fact that the most American children spend a great deal of time in front of the television. The average high school graduate will have been exposed to as many as 350,000 commercial messages. Alder (1980). Some critics feel that any type of advertising towards children is unfair and unacceptable. They say this because children should not be harmed or exploited because of advertisements. In April 1978, the FTC announced a rule regarding television advertising towards children. (Federal Trade Commission 1978). Certain characteristics of product presenters notably their sex, race, occupation, or social behavior, can contribute to children learning social stereotypes. Alder (1980). Children do notice that women are always selling the dish soap or the laundry detergent and if they are not selling a cleaning product their parading around in a bikini selling beer to a group of hollering men. Advertisements also have a tendency to group certain races with their own race and do interchange races very often. Children?s commercials even are guilty of this. In commercial?s for cabbage patch dolls the African American girl is always seen playing with the African American doll, while the white girl is always playing with the white doll. This is teaching children segregation rather than equality. Children have the ability to take in all the stereotypes that they have seen and these beliefs could be with them the rest of their lives because of the influence it had on them at such a young age.

The Internet offers children of all ages to view pornography with the push of a few keys. As society becomes more dependent on computers, children too are learning the ropes and how to use them. The Internet has explicit sights that only ask to confirm that you?re actually 18. Children are viewing pornography at a younger age and this could be a direct correlation to why American children are becoming sexually active at a younger age. Nothing good can come out with viewing explicit sexual acts, which is why it can only hurt children to look at this crap. Some times it has even led to sexual violence because of what a child has seen on the Internet. Parents can block these sites from their computers but as children become more educated through the use of computers they will be able to find ways around it. Pornography does nothing good for society and until we decide to do something about it children will still be able to view it. The only safe way for children to learn about sex is through schools and by their parents, sex can not be taught through the use of vulgar pictures and stories. Ramstien (1998)

Harmful stereotypes can take many forms. They portray women as dumb blondes, childlike, ding-a-lings, obsessed with men, a housewife, a sex object and so on. All of these stereotypes are dangerous but none is more harmful then the one that promotes the “thin ideal.” (Gustafson) Although work has been done to eliminate stereotypes, the society and life styles of women have only created new and different stereotypes. The most dangerous stereotype is the one that promotes the “thin ideal.” This tells women that to be beautiful and fashionable one must be thin, this of course only leads to deadly eating disorders. Mass media has been identified as a leader in the cause of anorexia nervosa. The message is sent to be attractive and successful one must be “ultraslender.” (Gustafson) Karen Carpenter, a popular singer in the late 70?s, had severe problems with anorexia, which eventually led to her death. She felt no matter how skinny she was she had to be skinner and this was all because of a manager who told her to lose a few pounds. Other famous actors have battled with this disease, for example, Tracy Gold from the sitcom “Growing Pains” has dealt with it and even come out into the public to share her story and help others. Advertisements can be just as deadly to the beliefs of a young lady. Everyday girls are faced with beautiful super models from the magazines they read, to the makeup they use, and from the television they watch. They are faced with seeing the “perfect body” on a number of occasion?s everyday of the week. Among 56 high school girls between 16-18 years old, those exposed to 15 beauty product commercials subsequently attached greater importance to being popular with men and accorded beauty characteristics more importance “for you personally” than those who did not see the commercials. Tan (1979).

Everyday children and women are faced with experiences that could lead to a major change in their life. Advertisements and television programming effect the beliefs of young people whether it is sexual, racial or what ever it may be. Children must have the education to decide for themselves that it is all right to have friends of different race and it is not all right to treat women as sex objects. Young girls are faced with a life threatening decision everyday as they look at models that to them are perfect. In a perfect world the media would be a direct correlation to that of society, until that day comes we must teach or young what is right and what is wrong, so they to have an opportunity to make an educated decision. America needs to stop worrying about them selves and start to worry about the future of the country. If the future is not put in front of the needs of others then as the young grow up they to will live in a society filled wit stereotypes, sex and racism.


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