What is the Psychosocial Impact of Television on Children in Contemporary Society? Essay

What is the Psychosocial Impact of Television on Children in Contemporary Society?

            While researching television’s impact on children, I conducted some interviews on the topic.  I chose to interview three families who had a variety of beliefs about television and whether or not it was appropriate to have television in the home.  What was most interesting was the variety of ideas that I was able to get from these families as well as the variety of information that there is on the topic of television and children.  There is a lot of information available which can contradict each other.  However there is no doubt that overall it can be proven that there is some type of psychosocial impact on children from television.  However where the differences start are how much of the influence is truly in relation to children watching television as opposed to the interactions that these same children are having with their parents or the lack of interactions between parents as a result of the children watching television.  Therefore it needs not only to be looked at as something that is purely based on television but also as something that is based on the overall influences of television in accordance with parents and relationships therein.

            The first family that I interviewed did not have a television in their home.  They possessed strong beliefs about their children viewing thing that they could not control and being unhappy about the fact that the children could potentially see things that could be damaging to them in the long run.  The parents pointed out that children did not have the cognitive ability to just ignore something and turn the channel but rather that they would keep watching and would want to constantly know what was going to happen next which was part of why television could be so bad for children.  The main argument of this parent was that there was no ability to be around the children twenty four hours per day and therefore the children would have access to things that this parent would not feel was appropriate if left to watch television on their own and this is what helped to formulate her decision to not have television in her home.  The overall lack of morality was discussed by this parent and the idea that children imitate what they see as well as how these imitations could lead to behaviors that this parent would not be happy with.  This parent believed that watching television could be harmful and damaging to her children and that without the influence of television she would better be able to control how her children were to perceive things  This parent admitted that she was unable to be home all of the time with her children and therefore her fear of television was that the children would be watching television unmonitored and that she would not be able to discuss with them or limit them to what they were seeing.  In the end though would it truly be the influence that the television was having on her children or would it be the lack of influence that she had on her children as she was not home.

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            A lot of studies and articles have been written about the problems that adolescents can face as a result of watching too much television  It has been proven that children who are involved in more sedentary behaviors, like watching television are more likely to be obese and to have obesity problems not only in childhood but on into adulthood.  These children are not being taught the value and importance of physical activity and therefore there is a lot of argument on the behalf of researchers and that would support this parent’s decision to not have a television in her home as what she is doing would have some health and physical benefits for her family whereas just allowing her family to sit around and watch television would hurt them in the long run as it could lead to physical health problems like obesity.  There is a lot of continued research on this study as it is showing the benefits of being a less technologically advanced family and being able to minimize the negative effects that technology can have by limiting the time that is spent with these types of technological advances, including things like television (Elgar, Roberts, Moore, and Tudor-Smith 2005).

            Another article that was researched that agreed with the first family that children could have detrimental influence on them from television was an article entitled, “A Media Literacy Nutrition Education Curriculum for Head Start Parents about the Effects of Television Advertising and Their Children’s Food Requests.”  This article looked into the fact that some of the more intensive advertising during children’s television programming were advertisements for foods and snacks that were geared towards children and unfortunately they were not the most healthy foods that were being looked at.  These foods included a lot of foods that were not healthy for the child and foods that were high in preservatives and other unnecessary things like sodium or sugar.  There was also a lot of information on how parents tend to forget to discuss the advertising that is being done during programming even when they are talking about the television programs.  Therefore it was determined that if not monitored and discussed properly there could be detrimental damages done for nutrition and health from the subliminal messages and advertising that is being shown during children’s television programming (Hindin, Contento, and Gussow 2004).

With the second family that I interviewed it was apparent that their beliefs differed some from the first family’s.  This parent believes that some of what people blame on television influence of children is simply put the families and others trying to “grasp at straws” to try and create answers for some behaviors of children.  This parent did admit that there could be some educational benefits to children from watching television.  She mentioned documentaries that pertained to what her child was learning in school.  This parent does believe in monitoring television and being able to observe what her children are watching.  This parent also believes that not all television needs to be educational and that at times it would be appropriate for her children to “unwind” with television.  This parent talked about the role of television in her home.  This role being that the television should be used to enrich or help the child to relax.  This parent does not believe that the television acts as a teacher or a parent in her home, nor does she feel that this should be the case.  This parent believes that with proper supervision and parenting with the standards of television that are watched by the children there are no problems with a child watching some television in moderation.

            This parents beliefs are upheld in that it is inappropriate for children to watch certain types of television was recently upheld by the FCC as there is now a requirement that all television programming that is not suitable for children to view.  This requirement can help to make parents more aware when there is an inappropriate television program on the television and when there are inappropriate matters being discussed on the television.  Joanne Cantor wrote a response to the FCC in her appreciation for things and to thank them for upholding a decision to try and make the media a safer genera of entertainment for the children.  This response discussed the programming that was researched to be the most detrimental as well as the overall effects of the violent programming.  This article also discussed the availability of tv chips and parental controls for television which are highly effective when used properly, where it is then the parent’s responsibility (Cantor 2004).

            The final and third family that I interviewed talked about their children watching television and modern television shows for entertainment purposes.  These parents do monitor television time and do not allow their children to watch shows that are not age appropriate however they do talk about their overall interest in certain shows.  This parent does believe that her children tend to watch too much television at some times however she has standards about when the children could watch television in general as well.  This parent also talked about teaching her children the difference between watching television for entertainment purposes and learning that what they see on television is fiction and not a part of “real life.”  This parent did not believe that television was harmful as long as the children were not watching inappropriate things.  This parent also did not believe that television could act as parent or teacher but rather that it was purely for entertainment purposes.  This parent disagrees with the idea that people can blame the poor behavior of children on watching too much television as rather these children would behave poorly based on lack of or poor parenting rather than television’s influence.

            The parent’s beliefs that one would need to monitor the television shows that are being watched and that one would need to make sure that the television being watched was appropriate for the children’s age level was upheld in Joanne Cantor’s study entitled, “Long Term Memories of Frightening Media Often Include Lingering Trauma Symptoms.”  This article discusses that there are definite thoughts put towards violence and disturbing things that are seen and that these issues can intensify over time as these things continue to be problems.  There are many problems associated long term with children viewing inappropriate things in the media.

            One researcher who would disagree with this parent is Dr Joanne Cantor.  She has researched information on these subjects and did so in her article “The Psychological Effects of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents.”  This study looks at the overall effects of media violence and how children and adolescents are able to process them.  The study looks at the various studies that have been conducted and at how these studies have been able to monitor the overall behaviors of the children.  The study looks at the difference between the various types of interactions with the media and how these were in relationship to violence but also looked at the type of home exposure and other factors as well.  There was a correlation between the viewing of violent media and increased hostility.  She also looked into the studies that were conducted on adults and their memories and influence from viewing violent television and it was found that those who viewed these types of television programming did have some problems with overall interactions and with memories and flashbacks of the things that they were in fear of.

            The thing that I learned from interviewing the three families was that each family will have their own unique beliefs on television and all of them will think that their beliefs are right and maybe they are for their family.  In the families that I interviewed there was no connection between television and lack of parenting or parental involvement but rather these parents were all very involved with their children whether they were watching television or not.  These parents were monitoring their television and first and foremost being parents rather than expecting the television to teach their children things or to entertain their children to the point that they would not have to be parents.  Also the sources that are out there, the journal articles that are written as well as the other information that is available for those wanting to find out more information on the psychosocial influence of television is quite varied and some of the information contradicts with other pieces of the information.

Cantor, Joanne (2004). Comments of Joanne Cantor, Ph.D. in Response to FCC Notice of

Inquiry in the Matter of Violent Television Programming and Its Impact on Children.  Joanne Cantor Your Mind on Media.  Retrieved on April 13, 2009 from http//www.yourmindonmedia.com

Cantor, Joanne.  Long Term Memories of Frightening Media Often Include Lingering

Trauma Symptoms.  Joanne Cantor Your Mind on Media.  Retrieved on April 13, 2009 from http://www.yourmindonmedia.com

Cantor, Joanne.  The Psychological Effects of Media Violence on Children and

Adolescents.  Joanne Cantor Your Mind on Media.  Retrieved April 13, 2009 from http://www.yourmindonmedia.com

Elgar, F.J., Roberts, C., Moore, L., Tudor-Smith, C. (2005).  Sedentary behavior, physical

activity and weight problems in adolescents in Wales.  Public Health, 119, 6, 518-524.

Hinden, Toby J., Contento, Isobel R., and Gussow, Joan Dye (2004).  A Media Literacy

Nutrition Education Curriculum for Head Start Parents about the Effects of Television Advertising on Their Children’s Food Requests.  Journal of the American Diabetic Association, 104, 2, 192-198.