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The alarm clock sounds, but this time Jeff wakes up well rested. It is the first day of summer vacation, and that means he can watch all of his favorite day time television shows with no interruptions. Grabbing a big bowl of his favorite cereal he settles on the couch for what is to be a very eventful day in the world of soap opera heaven. As he gets comfortable little does Jeff know the effect his television watching will have on him.
Since the 1920s the television has been an integral part of the lives of Americans. When the television was invented, it was designed as a means of dispersing information to the general public. The problem is not just television shows per se, or the Nintendo or internet, but it’s the buildup of recent years of electronic substitutes for the home life, along with television and its advertisements (Shapiro, 56 ). As the television became a popular household item, television programmers changed their focus from educating to entertaining.
This change resulted in an increase in the number of viewers. Over the last ten years, broadcasters have become more lenient when it comes to the regulation of aired material. Television broadcasts many shows aided primarily at adults during the time when children are the prospective viewers. Unfortunately, children are being exposed to it are experiencing drastic effects on their development. THESIS: It is evident that television not only promotes aggressive behavior, but also encourages passive rather than acting viewing which leads to obesity as well as racial and sexual stereotyping.
Violence is any cruel and obstructing act done to harm another person. In America, the average child watches television between two and five o’clock in the afternoon. During this slot, there is an average of 138 murders and 175 stabbings or individual attacks on a person shown on television (Signorelli, 127). Most television shows provide violence with the hope to increase their ratings. By showing a lot of violence, broadcasters send a message to children that violence is an acceptable way of dealing with a difficult or trivial situation. The use of violence is often justified by the acts of another who seemingly ask for it. Another issue brought on by the display of violence is the fantasy world that is portrayed (Leung, 910). In an hour show, a person could be beat up by three people and could return after a commercial break without any bruises, but be filled with an instinct to get revenge. Television does not depict a realistic world when it comes to violence. Television often gives the impression that the villain or the person creating a problem is the bad guy and the person who is using violence to save the day is the good guy. Therefore, the message is sent to the child that violence is acceptable if used to regulate another person’s behavior. After watching a show which contains violence, children of often try to replicate what had taken place (Voort, 1986). In a study by Gunter (1991), children will most likely view a show that is closely related to a world that they envision. Therefore a perfect world for a child is one which the bad guy hurts someone and the good guy saves the day by killing or destroying the villain. Gunter (1991) also found out that children are often in control of what they are watching. Neither mother or father are monitoring what is being seen. Therefore the child does not have a basic understanding of what is happening and does not know what other outlets could have been used instead of violence (Gunter, 1991). Violence is not only observed during adult programming, cartoons often depict violence. On The Tom and Jerry Show, for example, the two spend the entire show trying to annihilate each other by using traps, guns, and common kitchen items. There is a direct correlation between violence on television and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is experienced when a child has witnessed a traumatic event on television. The child exhibits sleep disturbances, nightmares, loss of appetite, depressed mood, and irritability (Leung, 912). Although measures have been taken
to reduce the amount of violence viewed, opponents feel that it is the parents job to monitor what their children are viewing. They also feel that some important accounts of the history of the United States and the world could be lost, including events such as the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement because they contain violence (Signorelli, 127).
Television also encourages passive versus active viewing. Most television shows, with the exception of quiz shows and shows geared toward education, do not invite the viewer to develop their analytical skills. The format of a show allows for a crisis to be introduced and then solved within a half hour. By watching television for purely entertainment, one uses only the right brain. Judith Evra explains this by saying that children view television in a more critical way. Most children are type B. This means that they view television as a way of escaping from reality or diverting their attention. Children often watch shows that do not require them to think very hard. The problem and answers are given to them without any work. There is a great deal of indifference experienced when a traumatic incident happens to a character in the story, except if the child suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Children view television quite casually, and do not often but themselves into the story. Research has shown a tendency for children to be absorbed in watching television. This tendency is called attention inertia. The longer a child remains in front of the television, the more the child feels he or she should be there. This condition has been noticed in children as young as eighteen months old. Although this is an easy habit to acquire, research conducted has also proven that it is very difficult to cure. Television is then seen as a privilege, which reemphasizes the child’s desire to watch television (Evra, 48 ). Children do not willingly wish to watch quiz shows because they are often slow moving and do not contain a lot of action. Shows which were extensively watched had been modified for their age group. The shows often gave prizes or had activities which caught their attention. They contained quizzes and activities that the child could participate in at home, and had contestants that they could relate to (Gunter, 1991).
There is a direct correlation between and obesity. Children between the ages of five through eleven are five times more likely to be overweight if they watch an excess of five television hours a day (To Much TV, To Much Weight 36). Inactivity and snacking while watching television have been found to contribute to an increase in weight. Children who snack while watching television often consume high calorie foods, many of which they have seen advertised on television. A child who is continually watching television loses time which should be spent doing physical activity, including sports (Leung, 915). It is a proven fact that while watching television people go into a subconscious state. In this state, fewer calories are burned. In a study conducted by Klesges in 1992, a normal weight child had a reduction in the metabolic rate of twelve percent after watching twenty-five minutes of the Wonder Years. In the same study, overweight children had an even higher decline in metabolic rate which tended to be sixteen percent. The child who was sitting still reading had a metabolic drop of only three percent (Klesges, 11 ).
Television often contributes to the stereotyping of certain groups. The first one to be examined is gender-stereotyping. During the feminist movement, women began to break some of the boundaries that had been previously established. Some of which include, a womens place is in the home, her job is to rear children, and to be subservient to her husband. On the other hand, the man’s role was to be the backbone of the family, the breadwinner, and disciplinarian. After working in society to change these stereotypes, television now portrays the woman as a productive member of today’s society, but her primary job is still to take care of her children. When the child is sick, the mother is called or
the father is depicted as being too incompetent to help the child. On television, women are show twice as many times in the bathroom, or kitchen with children than their male counter parts. Another problem that is closely related to this issue is the idea of the nuclear family. Television still portrays the perfect family as a father, mother and children. The parents were married and then participated in sexual relations. This gender-stereotyping has had drastic effects on the development of children. Many children who do not come from what television presents as the model family often feel that they are inferior. Many times children often wish they had parents which are unrealistically portrayed on television. This creates disappointment and resentment for their family. This typical portrayal of the nuclear family is not consistent with today’s statistics on who makes up a modern family. (Evra, 1990).
Another stereotype found on television is racial stereotyping. Many minorities such as Blacks and Hispanics, are under-represented when it comes to the number of shows which portray their lives. Many people who do not have any contact with these races are given an inaccurate representation of a race of people. Blacks are often presented as criminals, undereducated, and on welfare. Although, this is a misconception, society prefers this idea to be televised. Over the last ten years, many shows which portrayed minorities in a more accurate way have lasted an average of one season. These stereotypes have been found to contribute to how a race acts. Many think that since the Black male has more often been depicted as a criminal, that his actions reflect what he has been taught. Therefore, if a Black male child has been taught, through viewing television, that most Black men are in gangs and are involved in illegal activity, he will grow up to believe that is an acceptable way to live unless he is taught at home that it is unacceptable (Evra, 1990).
All in all since the invention of the television, Americas youth have experienced a drastic change in their development. Not only has it stunted their ability to think analytically it has also sent out wrong messages, many of them which have turned out to be catastrophic. Broadcasters and parents have neglected to monitor the childrens television, therefore allowing children to be influenced negatively.
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