The psychosocial development of a child, whether positive or negative, is influenced by forms of mass media, one being television. The potential consequences of using television to help socialize children are profound. Television has the power to teach, contribute to obesity, convey a model of conflict resolution, specifically when within the topic of violence, and internalize gender, race, and class stereotypes. Although correlation does not imply causation, research on television viewing and its effect on children’s socialization indicates that television has a great affect on children’s lives. When used responsibly, television can be an influential source of education. It gives young children access to shows that can help them develop language skills, concept-formation skills, and prosocial development, such as traits like kindness and empathy.
When I was younger, I would watch Sesame Street for pure enjoyment, but subconsciously I was being taught valuable lessons on cooperation, kindness, racial harmony, simple math, and the alphabet. Dora the Explorer is another educational television format that can expand a child’s Spanish speaking abilities by teaching basic sayings and words.Because television limits the amount of time available to play and exercise, children who are avid watchers tend to be less physically fit and more inclined to eat high calorie and high energy junk foods. The prime time commercials promoting unhealthy dietary snacks substantially contribute to the problem of obesity. Television also decreases children’s time for reading, learning to talk, spending time with peers and family, and developing any other necessary physical, mental, and social skills. Violence in the media provides another educational opportunity, and whether that outcome is negative or positive, depends on how it is portrayed. Although violence opens adolescents’ minds and makes them aware of the attributes a deviant person may have, children’s appetites are more inclined towards being involved in violence in real life after watching it. It can be perceived as the cool thing to do because the violence is mainly committed by an attractive person.
Heroes can be violent too, and, as such, are rewarded for their behavior. They become role models for viewers because the violence is rarely punished. It is not difficult to lose sense of what is reality and what is fiction. Hence, vulnerable victimized children may be tempted to use violence in order to solve a problem. Moreover, children who watch televised violence are desensitized to it. They may conclude violence as a fact of life and lose their sense of empathy towards the victim. Media also shapes our outlook on everyday life, history, social institutions, and our identity by hinting an underlying meaning to topics regarding class, race, and gender. For example, when female characters are passive and indecisive on screen, children will think that women should always be subordinate to men.
Similarly, due to the fact that men are more likely televised undertaking leadership roles and exhibiting decisive behavior, children will believe this is a norm in households. Stereotypes in media are reinforced by friends, parents, and school. Television shows can send subtle or forceful messages about societally approved gender, class, and race roles. Furthermore, in music videos, females are often shown in degrading positions or as sex objects, and as trying to seduce the a male who is playing hard to get.I believe the major role the media plays in influencing children’s attitudes and behavior is underestimated.
However, if you start to analyze the hidden messages in all of television, you will see there is plenty more to take out of watching it than what meets the eye, whether that be educational or not.