However, this explanation is rather deterministic as it assumes that people have no choice but to be influenced by what they see on TV. This is not always the case because there are some people who are not influenced by the media at all. For example, when some people watch a programme which contains a lot of pro-social acts, they still continue to show antisocial behaviours. This suggests that other factors, such as a person’s personality, may be important for media to have a positive effect on people.
Another explanation of how the media has an influence on pro-social behaviour is to do with the acquisition of pro-social behaviours and norms. According to this explanation, pro-social acts are more likely to represent our own social norms, so what we see on TV reinforces our own social norms. For example, if a person watches a programme which contains a lot of pro-social acts, this may encourage or remind them that it is how are expected to act in society, so they may then copy that pro-social behaviour that they see on TV.
One weakness of this explanation is the fact that it is rather deterministic. It is deterministic in the sense that it assumes that just because pro-social acts may represent our own social norms, people have no choice but to copy the pro-social acts that they may witness on TV. This is not always true as there are some people who like go against what is seen as socially normal because they want to be different from everybody else.
For example, if they see a TV programme which contains a lot of pro-socials messages, they may choose to display antisocial behaviours in order to be different from everyone in their society, so this suggests that the media would not have any positive effect on them and the media wouldn’t be able to encourage them to show pro-social behaviours. Another weakness of this explanation is the fact that what is seen as being socially normal can differ across cultures.
For example, in some parts of the world it is normal for people to be anti-social, so the media may not be able to have any positive effect on those people because the media would not be able to convert their way of thinking. Pro-social acts on TV would not be seen as normal to them, so they would not copy the behaviour that they see on TV. Another explanation of how the media influences pro-social behaviour is to do with parental mediation.
Parental mediation involves a child and a parent watching a TV programme together and then the parent can explain anything that is unclear or disturbing (within the programme) to a child in order to help them to understand what is going on. This explanation argues that parental mediation has a positive effect on children as it allows the children to understand what they seeing and this would then enable them to be influenced by the media.
For example, if a child witnesses a TV character stealing something from a shop, the parents can then explain to their child that it is wrong, and this can mean that the child would avoid stealing something if they find themselves in the same situation as the TV character. So, parental mediation can help a child to understand what they are seeing on TV, meaning that they are likely to copy the pro-social acts that they see on TV.
For example, if a child sees a TV character helping someone, they may then copy what that TV character is doing- the child can then go on to help, for example, their friend if they find themselves in the same situation the TV character. Valkenburg et al carried out research which provides some support for this explanation. They found out that parental mediation, involving a child and a parent discussing the content of a TV programme would be effective in enhancing the pro-social messages in TV programmes.