I decided to see if television, which is notorious for having negative effects on children’s education and attitudes, could have any positive effects. Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of studies that have been done that have seen positive correlations between TV-viewing and academic and social success, though there are even more sources that point out the negative effects. Through my own observations of my little siblings and cousins viewing habits, I felt confident that I could come up with an idea as to which side of this debate was correct. In my experience, my relations tend to favor watching Disney Channel and PBS. As will be noted later these channels tended to get the highest ratings for positive influence upon children by their parents. The parents surveyed also claimed that their children watched TV for relatively short amounts in a day. I concluded in my hypothesis that television watching can prove to have positive influences on children depending on the channel and programs watched as well as how many hours it is viewed.
In order to support my hypothesis I looked into research that has already been collected on the subject. I found many sources that claimed that extreme amounts of “regular” television programming for young children can be extremely harmful. However, using school resources on the online databases, I was able to find multiple scholarly journals that support my hypothesis. In the first source,
“One longitudinal study (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger & Wright, 2001) found that adolescents who watched educational programs as preschoolers had a positive effect on their grades, behavior, creativity, and social behavior during later years (Austin).” This finding is monumental because it not only shows that academia can be improved through television watching, but that social behaviors can also be positively affected. It is important to note, however, that this study specifically highlights that “educational programs” are the TV shows that showed this positive success in young children.
These are shows that specifically strive to improve children, rather than the cartoons and other less positively influential programs that children often chose to watch. These “educational programs” are, in fact, good for a child’s development, but they are not always a child’s or even a parent’s first choice of watching material. That same journal goes on to support this claim about the importance of “educational programs” while also highlighting that “moderate levels” of television viewing is important,
“The utilization of informational television…can have a positive impact on student achievement if properly channeled. Moderate levels of meaningful and supervised television viewing may be better for children than too much or no viewing at all (Austin).” Television stays true to the old proverb that too much of a good thing is always harmful. However, it also is better than nothing which I found intriguing. Television has been proven to have positive effects and, fortunately, that cannot be denied. Many will argue that these proven positive effects are outweighed by the negative effects of aggression, lack of social interaction, and academic neglect. However according to this,
“The report by Jonson Et Al. is interesting in that it presents an association between the amount of television viewed at young ages and subsequent aggressive behavior as adults; however, it does not show causation (Kids).” it is not as big a problem as it is usually perceived to be, since a lack of causation implies that the television did not necessarily cause the aggressive behavior. Those children could have genetically been aggressive individuals or have become more aggressive due to their environments which, it is important to note, allowed them to watch television longer than the average child. Another study counters those who point to television as the source of aggression,
“Kenny makes a compelling case that…the advent of the TV era in the world’s poorest spots…can help make them better places to live, producing more thoughtful, less violent, and better-educated people (Forget Twitter).”
Television can be a powerful tool, especially when it is being used to shape young minds. Before it was used to inspire and influence young children it was used quite powerfully,
“In 1988, [by] Jay Winsten, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and the director of the school’s Center for Health Communication, [who] conceived…to introduce a new social concept–the “designated driver”–to North America (Rosenzweig).” As we know today, designated drivers and the campaign to not drink and drive has become a widespread phenomena. Winsten was able to incorporate this idea of not drinking while drunk into TV shows for adults on many channels and in many different ways, and he found unprecedented success. The lessons that are taught in mainstream adult media are strong enough and prevalent enough to make a difference. Children programs are even more well known for trying to incorporate educational components and teach morality. Sesame Street, utilizing these ingrained messages, found similar success in children’s television,
“Early research on Sesame Street found that… preschoolers who watched the program extensively developed more positive attitudes toward people of different groups (Wilson).” Sesame Street is an educational program that specifically targets young children, and tries to teach them life lessons as well as academics. They are using their influence and power in the television industry to improve the lives and situations of toddlers globally. From episodes that teach tolerance in politically charged Israel and Palestine to education for children who would otherwise receive very little, Sesame Street is one of many television programs that has a positive effect on children.
Many of the more “educational” programs feature on PBS or Sprout where the more entertaining shows feature on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. I used my research to discover how many hours children watch these channel, how educational or influential parents found the varying channels to be, and which channel the child preferred to watch. This research will show how positive the parents felt the effects of certain channels are on their children and whether or not they are influencing their children to watch these stations for the most amounts of time. I utilized a survey questionnaire to obtain my information because a questionnaire allowed me to ask a wider population in a shorter amount of time. I asked the age of the children in question, how many hours of TV they watched in a day, which kid-aimed station they watched most often, and then I asked the parents to rate the influence of the various channels as having a strong negative influence, moderate negative influence, no noticeable influence, moderate positive influence, and strong positive influence.
I had listed the channels to rate as the most popular kids stations: Disney (including Junior, XD, and Channel), Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Sprout, and PBS as well as an “other” category that one parent added the Hub to. PBS, which is known for its educational programming, received the most strong and moderate positive ratings and did not get rated for any of the other, less positive, ratings. However, only one parent claimed that PBS was the station their child watched and enjoyed most often. The Disney Channel was the most popular station in terms of children watching it, but received as many moderately negative and no effects as it did positive ratings. Cartoon Network, which, unsurprisingly, features a mostly cartoon program, by far did the worst, getting no positive reviews and only one no effect rating. As importantly as the content children are viewing is the amount of time they are viewing it for.
Only one family claimed that their child, a 10-year-old, watched over four hours of TV. This particular family also gave the most negative ratings to all of the stations except Disney, which the child viewed the most, and PBS. All the other families that gave PBS the highest positive ratings and the one family that cited it as their child’s most watched, had viewing hours of 30 minutes to 2 hours a day which are relatively healthy amounts of television for children to be viewing. By pairing PBS, the most education-aimed channel, with the smallest amounts of view time, parents were noticing high amounts of positive influence of television on their children in both academics and social skills. This information clearly supports my hypothesis.
In conclusion, television has a surprising number of positive effects on children. But these rewards can only be reaped by certain programs and only with healthy amounts of viewing times. By encouraging healthy viewing habits and healthy viewing choices parents can help improve the lives of their children even if they are in the poorest, most desperate situations.
Austin, William P., and Franklin T. Thompson. “Television viewing and academic achievement revisited.” Education 124.1 (2003): 194+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 June 2014 “Forget twitter, think TV.” Foreign Policy 175 (2009): 1. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 June 2014. “Kids, TV viewing, and aggressive behavior. (Letters).” Science 297.5578 (2002): 49+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 June 2014. Rosenzweig, Jane. “CAN TV IMPROVE US?” The American Prospect (1999): 58.Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 June 2014. Wilson, Barbara J. “The Future of Children, Princeton – Brookings: Providing Research and Analysis to Promote Effective Policies and Programs for Children.” – The Future of Children -. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2014.