Today, values get calculated by electronic and visual media as opposed to how it was in the past when the church, family, and other social institutions used to impart values and skills. Furthermore, the current society is also characterized with the media having the strongest influences on normal adolescent and child development. The media have been implicated with social ills like school shootings, drug use, and teen sex. There are also eating disorders and obesity as well as solicitation of sex through the internet. This paper discusses television and other media in relation to child development.
Children and adolescents usually use media for a considerable amount of time. In fact, most of their leisure activities involve media except for the time when they sleep. In America, a child can spend on average about 5.5 hours every day with several media. Watching television consumes most of their time. Nevertheless, some teenagers also tend to divert to videos, music, computer games, and movies. Research also indicates that the majority of the children in the US have TV sets in their bedrooms while a third of them have a VCR. Consequently, these children are also more vulnerable to media influences due to their age than adults who may make informed decisions as far as media is concerned. The young generation gets affected the most, because they have little experience with real-life situations. As a result, they are less sophisticated and knowledgeable. Furthermore, children have a greater tendency to believe the information they receive from the media since they have less critical thinking skills. For instance, it is not easy for 4-6 year-olds to understand the meaning of advertisements intended to promote certain businesses (Strasburger, 2004).
Most children and adolescents get driven by illusion into the belief that the media depicts a real world. As they carry on watching the TV, they continue expecting that their lives would conform to the behavior and rules modeled on TV. As much as teens are more skeptical than children, they are highly prone to peer pressure. For them, the media is likely to function as a super peer. For example, most of the teens admit that they feel encouraged by TV to have sex. Consequently, most teenage girls end up getting pregnant, which leads to early motherhood with numerous complications and health risks. As a matter of fact, TV and other media are responsible for shaping attitudes of children and adolescents. Media can influence their perceptions of social reality and social behavior. In addition, media can help them create cultural norms and convey essential messages concerning the depicted behaviors (Strasburger, 2004).
It is argued by scholars that TV and video material should not be condemned among infants and toddlers, because they help in developing infant’s brain and promote early learning. There is a weak evidence to illustrate that this material enhances attention deficits during later childhood. Nevertheless, such complains have been highlighted in the media. Major deficits in attention relate to genetic and neurobiological factors, which underpin the progress of executive attention. Professionals and parents need evidence-based guidelines regarding the appropriate use of video and television by toddlers and infants (Courage & Setliff, 2009).
TV and media can lead children and teens into an adult world of drugs, sex, and success much earlier than they are ready for such stuff. Children who play video games more often perceive the world as a very aggressive place to stay. They also tend to argue more with their teachers since they find it hard to obey simple instructions. Furthermore, others get low grades in school, because they do not have enough time to concentrate on their studies. They also get themselves into the wrong side with school authority since they frequently get involved with other children in physical fights. On the other hand, violent video games have also been found to increase physiological arousal as well as aggressive feelings and thoughts (Strasburger, 2004).
Many experimental studies that include static observational date and few longitudinal studies suggest that teens and children’s violent behavior is related to their exposure to media involving dramatic violence. On the other hand, researchers also concur that violent behavior does not occur spontaneously; however, there is usually a convergence of many precipitating and predisposing factors that enhance the behavior. These factors include poor child rearing and neurophysiological abnormalities, socio-economic deprivation, alcohol and drug abuse, poor peer relations, provocation and frustration, beliefs and attitudes that support aggression, and other factors. In many countries, the children who are most aggressive tend to watch more TV, prefer violent programs, identify with aggressive characters and also view TV violence as being more real compared to how less aggressive children perceived it. On the other hand, there is a long-term impact of the exposure to violence during early childhood feeled in later childhood, teen years and adulthood (Huesmann et al., 2003).
Young teenagers have admitted that they receive most of the information regarding sexual health and sexuality from the entertainment media. Classes that are conducted in schools and at home aim at educating teenagers about the dangers of early engaging in sexual activities. Nevertheless, these teenagers get influenced by the media to get sexually active. Almost three-fourths of every prime-time TV shows have some sexual content. In addition, one out of every seven programs comprises of either a portrayal or implied sexual intercourse.
The most disturbing thing is that American TV is frequently sexually suggestive, unhealthy, and unrealistic. Sex gets demonstrated as an informal pastime that has scarce or no consequences. The significance of this issue connection to normative adolescent behavior and thinking cannot be overemphasized. Moreover, talk shows and soap operas also contribute heavily to the development of this trend. On the other hand, music TV and music videos have also defined a whole generation as the MTV generation. For example, adolescent girls employ music videos to define their personal sexual identity. These music videos have 75% of sexual scenes with half of the women involved used as sex objects. In addition, most pregnant teens also acknowledge that their pregnancy is a resul of watching many soap operas. They never thought that the soap opera characters which they admired the most ever used birth control methods (Strasburger, 2004).
The media in the US is also known to assault children and adolescents by using them in ads. Industries target them so that they can make billions through marketing and selling their products or services. Research indicates that children under six years of age do not have the psychological and cognitive defense against TV advertising. They do not understand the impact or notion of the intention to sell something. Consequently, they usually accept advertising claims without deep consideration. This has drawn the attention of child rights organizations that have emphasized on the fact that it is unethical to use children in ads. Some western countries have prohibited all advertising that is directed at children who are under 12 years of age. Greece also bans any toy advertising on TV until 10 and during the night. Belgium and Denmark have also set severe restrictions on advertising that targets children. On the other hand, parents admit that advertising has made their children junior consumers. The children have become very materialist such that most of them evaluate their self-worth in relation to the number of possessions they have. This greatly affects their attitudes towards life and how they relate with their parents. Parents get pressured to sustain a very life-style which sometimes is not possible (Strasburger, 2004).
In conclusion, the media has been implicated with social ills like school shootings, drug use, and teen sex. Children and adolescents usually use media for a considerable amount of time. Nevertheless, some teenagers also tend to divert to videos, music, computer games, and movies. The majority of the children in the US have TV sets in their bedrooms while a third of them have a VCR. Consequently, most teenage girls get pregnant and face numerous complications and health risks. Alternatively, other scholars assert that the use of TV and video material among infants and toddlers should not be condemned, because it helps in developing their brain and promotes early learning.