The Effects Television Pose on Children

The Effects Television Pose on Children

Television is a device that is used to produce visual images and sounds onto a screen primarily for entertainment. Television has been around for more than a century. Since the early 1900s, television has graced the homes of those who could afford the luxury of having one, adding pictures to stories and programs once experienced only on the radio. But has television completely taken over the lives of our population? Little Billy is only 7 years old. One day while his mom was tending to her flower garden a couple of Billy’s friends asked her if he could come out and play. Billy’s mother called for him, but she received no response, so she went to go get him, as she found him in the family room staring at the T.V., she called him several times until finally she went over to shake him, to which his reply to the situation was “I did not hear you mommy”. Over the decades as time passed, and the television had become more modern and affordable, children have become inclined to watch more of it. Television enacts a sort of “gravitational pull” not only to children but to people of all ages. It has the ability to pull people in and hold them there for extended periods of time, mesmerizing viewers with the images that appear on the screen. People often lose track of the time while watching television, which has grown more appealing, with advances in technology that led to better picture quality and superior sound capability. Today television extends itself to many new forms of entertainment for example people can watch movies, play videogames, and some people can even set up their computers to run of the television set. Television has proven overtime to be a device that can stimulate the interest of almost anyone. Anything and everything can be broadcasted onto the television and probably already is. Parents can enjoy watching crime, drama, romance, and a variety of other things that come on the T.V. regularly; while children can enjoy the exciting worlds of their favorite superheroes or watch their favorite cartoons to keep themselves entertained. “In short television is the one of most [sic] shared and homogenizing mechanisms of children’s lives today throughout the world. Whether they have their T.V in their bedroom, share the family set in the living room, or watch it in the classroom or the community center it is part of the taken-for-granted everyday experience of most children” (Lemish 2). Because of these facts and forms of entertainment the television brings, parents should make it their responsibility, if not their duty, to ensure that their children do not fall victim to the effects that television can pose on society in general. Parents should limit their children’s television time to help them avoid developing a sedentary lifestyle, a false sense of reality, violent tendencies, and/or possible decreases in their academic success.
Granted, not everything about television can be said to be a negative influence. Some may argue for some of the good things that television has brought the world. Television has made it possible for people to see what is going on in the world outside; through television programs like the “News” people learn about current events, weather changes, or special advisories that may come. On some television stations, people can learn about history or science. For children there are some shows that are geared to their learning. Shows like Sesame Street for example are produced to help teach children the basics of reading, writing, and math. Every episode features a different theme within the basics of learning. Most of the program will focus on a single number and letter and it will take the child through the steps of how to reach that number and take them through a slew of different worlds that start with the letter of that day to get them accustomed to using the letter in sentences. Sesame Street uses puppets and actors to teach the children its daily lessons. The lessons are taught by using music, humor, and some animated sketches to attract and captivate the children. Another show that some may argue for is the show Barney and Friends. In this show a big purple anthropomorphic tyrannosaurus is used to teach lessons. The lessons are normally done through song and dance. There are also children (Barney’s friends) that are used to show/teach how certain actions like sharing, cleaning up after they are done playing, and the use of manners should be used in society. These are great programs that can be seen as useful for the development of children, but they are only a drop in an ocean of the television programs that can grab and hold the attention of a child long enough to destroy the attribute these shows work so hard to impact and make the child ignore them completely. The fact is that, out of all the shows that children are able to watch, far too often, when given the choice of what they want to watch children tend to choose the shows with more action or violence. The special effects used in these shows will attract a child more readily than most educational program.

Television viewing by children has increased in recent years. As television has become very accessible with there being more than one television set in most households; this poses a problem for parents because in many cases one of the television sets will more than likely be placed in the child's room. Dafna Lemish author of Children and Television A Global Perspective writes “Television has global status, too, because very similar debates over television’s role in the lives of children have emerged world wide” (2). Mary A. Hepburn, a professor emerita of social science education of the University of Georgia, tells us that almost 90 percent of America has one television set in the house and 74 percent have more than one set (352). Hepburn also states "Daily use of TV in all types of American Households averages 7 1/5 hours a day. In homes with teenagers under eighteen, the average viewing time is 55 hours a week or 7 4/5 hours a day" (352). Likewise Bonnie A. Lazar, an associate professor at the department of Social Work at the University of Southern Maine, states "Most children grow up in homes where the television is on for an average of seven hours a day, creating a virtually closed- circuit environment" (67). Seven hours a day is a lot of time for children to spend watching TV. Bonnie goes on to say that "the average U.S high school graduate will have spent more time watching television than any other activity other than sleeping" (67). “Children and television is an issue of global interest for an additional crucial reason. Today children are part of a global audience that transcends local or even regional physical and cultural boundaries in consumption of television programs” (Lemish 2). Hence when all the time spent watching television is added up more than half a person’s life would be wasted in front of a television set. Lazar does state that television may be the primary source for many children to get information and expand their educational values (67). But even if this is the case parents still need to pay more attention to the amount of television watched by their children to help save them from other negative side effects. In fact Certain and Kahn point out that "Studies of elementary school children, however have shown positive effects of reducing television without reference to the quality of programmed viewed" (Certain and Kahn 641). Parents should strive to make changes to the habits of their children's television viewing so the children can benefit from the positive effects and not suffer the adverse effects as mentioned above. In a word, the hours spent watching TV leaves little to the thought that our society spends too much time in front of the television screen and parents should make a conscience effort to reduce this time for their children's sake.

Parents should limit their children's TV time to help them pursue a more active lifestyle instead of the sedentary lifestyle most kids develop from extended periods of watching TV. The ability for television to pull people in and create a hypnotizing effect that almost zombifys them is a scary thought; but a more scary thought is how it can affect a person negatively. Ann Froese-Fretz an editor for the Journal Of The Society Of Pediatric Nurses and writer of the article “Ask The Expert” interviews Jyu-Lin Chen, an RN and doctoral student at the University of California, and Christine M. Kennedy, a RN and associate professor at the University of California, states that "Heavy television viewing (more than 2 hours/day) is associated with fewer physical activities, less satisfying social relationships, few interpersonal interactions, low reading skills, low social achievements, and aggressive behaviors" (35). Ann Froese-Fretz goes on to state that the nurses feel "television viewing has been negatively implemented in the physical health, psychological well-being, and cognitive development of children" (35). This leads to many concerns but a main concern out of the bunch mentioned is the physical health of the child and it should be addressed. Ann Froese-Fretz makes the point that the nurses feel obesity is a rising problem for children and youth who constantly watch television (35). similarly Laura K. Certain and Robert S. Kahn state that "if school -aged television habits begin to develop early in life, then the roots of social disparities in obesity and violence may be explained in part of these early experiences" (634). With the limiting of television by parents many of these problems can be avoided. MH Proctor LL Moore, D Gao, LA Cupples, ML Bradlee, MY Hood and RC Ellison who are all part of the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine state that "Children who watch more television and play more video games may be less active in general and may have less favorable dietary habits. After controlling for these factors, television watching still remained an independent predictor of body fat change" (832).this can become a problem for the children not only during their childhood but through their adult life. Proctor et al. state that "Dietary patterns and physical activity levels that contribute to the development of obesity often track into adulthood, particularly among children who are obese during adolescence" (827). With Television being a central cause of many of the problems that correlate with children parents should take the extra precautions to limit the time spent watching TV so they can help them avoid a sedentary lifestyle and the physical health problems associated with it.

Children tend to develop a false sense of reality when watching television; they see what happens on their favorite television shows and believe that is how real life is. This poses a problem for children because a proper perception of reality is needed to maintain safety and will help the child stay away from danger. Dafna Lemish writes "television viewing involves both socialization and the social construction of reality. On the one hand, it introduces us to the world outside our immediate 'here' and 'now.' It expands, interprets, highlights, judges, legitimizes, or excludes social phenomena that the viewer encounters in reality or in the other media" (101). These representations of what the concept of reality brings will help keep the child safe in the long run and also help them deal with the world as it is now. Lemish goes on to say that “the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality is one of the primary differences between children's and adult's thought processes" (48). She also states that “children and adults use different structures of comprehension. therefore, social meanings, as children understand them, can be very different that those of adults. Developmental researchers often evaluate children's understandings as 'less' - less complete, accurate, or relevant than those held by adults" (103). It is for this reason that parents need to understand that their children rely on them to teach them how to properly perceive real events. Parents should make a real effort to take notice to what their children are watching on television and question them on what they think is happening and tell them how it should really be perceived, even if very subtlety as to preserve some of their innocence. This also can be a little of an issue for parents because of the rate that children develop. Heather L. Kirkorian, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Massachusetts, Ellen A. Wartella ,a professor, executive vice chancellor, and provost at the University of California, and Daniel R. Anderson ,a professor at the University of Massachusetts, state that "some research suggest that children do not begin to discriminate between television and real-life events until the early preschool years" (42). This may be true and even if it is parents should still start early in helping their children determine between what is fact and what is fiction. The ability for the child to perceive reality is one that can be hindered by television and the parents should take it upon themselves to help them achieve such feats by limiting television viewing and explaining events shown on television.

Parents also need to understand that most of the television shows that children watch have very graphic, violent content and since kids imitate what they see on the screen, they tend to develop violent tendencies. Most television shows that children are interested in tend to have a lot of violence associated with it. The heavy action and “spectacular” effects draw a child’s attention with ease. “there is little disagreement that children all over the world watch a lot more violence on television on a regular basis then they would ever come close to witnessing in real life (Lemish 72). Certain and Kahn state that "the substantial amount of television watched by school-aged children and the associated adverse effects are increasingly well documented. Although a few researchers highlight the benefits of television, the majority link increased television viewing with higher rates of violence, obesity, and poor school performance"( 634). Even Lazar states that “Children exposed to heavy doses of television violence can develop antisocial values, which can lead to aggressive acts and tolerance of aggressive behavior” (67). It is for those factors that parents should make it a point to monitor what their children watch on television and determine if the content of what is appropriate for their age group. Lemish tells her readers that “Violence on TV is exciting, easily understood regardless of language and cultural barriers, and thus ‘travels well’ in the global market of television programs” (72). As stated by Lemish it is easily seen how violence on television captures audiences around a broad range of ages, races, and genders but it is also why children need to be limited to it as it has the ability to shape their personalities. In addition Lemish also tells her readers “a second undisputed fact is that, at the risk of over-generalizing, we can state that most children, from a very young age, watch many of these genres and thus are exposed to a variety of violent expressions on a regular basis over the entire life cycle” (72). Lemish goes on to say that “Television is a rich resource for such learning, in general, and of violent behaviors, more specifically. Violent programs supply children with many ideas for specific acts of violence. They also teach viewers the functionality of violent behaviors” (73). Children can be very susceptible to what they view on TV most children follow the concept of if they can do so can I. Lemish ends with “overall, correlational studies have found that children who were rated as more violent by their friends were also those who were heavy viewers of violent television. Furthermore, the more a child watched violent television in a given year, the more likely it was that the child would be rated as aggressive in the following years” (76). Violent television programing is very dangerous for children and parents must take the initiative to monitor what their kids watch and the way they behave so they do not develop violent tendencies later in their life.

Parents need to understand that television has the potential to create decreases in their children’s academic success. The amount of television watched by children is tremendous and it interferes with their studying. Lemish states that “in reality, most children spend considerable time in both educational systems- school and television. On most days they pass from one to the other having learned to manage the differing expectations and conventions of both worlds” (151). But this is sadly not the case for most children they go to school learn what they need to as to get through the day but then go home turn on the T.V. watch it for hours on end and forget all that they learned from that day or from the previous lessons they had. She goes on to say that “there is a body of research that points out the possibility that there is a negative relationship between amount of viewing television, combined with specific kind of television genres, and performance in school, including literacy skills”(155). The shows that children choose to watch are not helping them gain the skills needed for them to achieve and/or retain the academic information that they are learning in school. They will sit in front of the screen and waste all that is learned on some meaningless cartoons that are not based on anything but pure entertainment. To make things worst most television creators only care about ratings. Lemish states that “commercial television stations disavow having any educational responsibilities. Above all else, their raison d’être is to make a profit by attracting as wide an audience as possible” (148). The higher the audience the better their ratings and the bigger the profit they gain from the corporations. Lemish also states “Furthermore, no evidence has accumulated so far regarding the possibility of there being a positive contribution of television to school performance” (155). In order for children to be able to retain the information they receive parents need to teach them how to perceive television. Hepburn states that “For students to achieve television literacy, they must be aware of how television programs, movies, and ads affect them” (353). With there being so few shows like Sesame Street and Barney and friends airing on television parents really need to watch out for their children so they can have peace of mind when it comes to what their children are leaning.

By limiting television parents can help their kids obtain an active life and a better sense of reality. They can also help them achieve more socially accepted tendencies by avoiding violence and learning how to get along with their peers. Most of all by limiting television and using the extra time to do more productive things they can further their academic success. Despite all the finding on the negative effects that television can cause, there still seems to be little change in the world. If parents take the time to help their children and not just leave them to fend for themselves and letting the television set teach them “its” ideas on the socially accepted views of the world, they can feel a greater accomplishment in life. Parents should take pride in teaching their children, by helping their children learn the parent can feel a sense of relief that the child will go forth into the world with the ability to not only distinguish between what is right and wrong but also acting upon it. Currently the state of children becoming “addicted” to watching television is steadily rising. If these limitations on the time children are allotted to watch television are put into motion by parents, then the parents should see a more active and attentive side to their children. This will inevitably help the children by keeping them moving, keeping them from unhealthy lifestyles, and/or by allowing them to use the new found time to study and improve their grades in school. Three years later Billy’s mother is again tending to her garden. When Billy goes up to her and tells her he is done his reading and asks if can he go outside and play with his friends now. Pleased with the news Billy’s mom allows him to go out to play. By Billy’s mom setting limits on the time Billy watches television he uses his time to study and read. He also found time to play with his friends. The truth is that television is slowly taking over the daily lives of all those who are able to afford its luxury. Though it may not be the intended result by its buyers it is the effect that is being produced. If the changes that are discussed are actually used parents can expect a better and more fulfilling life for their children.

Work Cited
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Society of Pediatric Nurses 6.1 (2001): 35-38 Academic Search Complete. Web 2 Oct. 2012.
Hepburn, Mary A. "Media Literacy: A Must for Middle School Social Studies." Clearing House
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Kirkorian, Heather L., Ellen A. Watella, and Daniel R. Anderson. “Media and Young Children’s Learning.” Future of Children 18.1 (2008): 39-61. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.
Lazar, Bonnie A. "Under The Influence: An Analysis Of Children's Television Regulation." Social Work Vol. 39 issue 1 Jan 1994: 67-74
Lemish, Dafna. Children and Television A Global Perspective. Malden: Blackwell Publishing,2007. Print.
Procter, MH, et al. "Television viewing and change in body fat from preschool to early
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