TV or not TV? -That’s the question. We may not all be Hamlet, but we all struggle with our own existential issues and since television plays a major role in our existence it becomes an issue. The days are long past when we could consider TV to be an innocent, innocuous part of daily life or a casual baby-sitter. It is a powerful, persuasive teacher and a primary companion for children, many of whom spend more time in front of the television than in school.
Considering that some members of the average family watch more than seven hours of television per day, it is not surprising that contemporary research indicates that human development and behaviour are affected by television to a degree far exceeding earlier judgments. Unfortunately, this medium, which has been used for much good, has increasingly been misused. The number of programmes and commercials that conflict with gospel standards are steadily rising, and few viewers demonstrate enough self-discipline to resist.
Some of us don’t even realize what hidden messages we’re receiving-and little by little we subconsciously come to accept them as normal or appropriate. There is a large body of research that documents the way in which exposure to television influences children generally, and much of this relates to the effects of exposure to violent content in programming. Children who view programmes where violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or left unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they observe on television.
The impact of television violence may be immediately evident in a child’s behaviour or it may surface years later. Children who spend their time alone will learn behaviour from television, which is considered to be acceptable. Several studies have also highlighted that children may become ‘immune’ to violence, gradually accepting it as a way to solve problems. Young children are very impressionable, and it follows that they see things on television, and at the movies, that they may consider as normal. For example, Americans accept that there is a tremendous amount of violent crime in their country.
They hardly flinch when they hear about horrific murders; they’ve heard it all before. However, in the UK we still find it horrific when someone holds a shootout at a school or murders a child. This is because we don’t come across it very often. Unfortunately though, because of the amount of detail in newer films, we are beginning to get used to violence. Take for example the recent film, “Hannibal” starring Anthony Hopkins, where the consuming of a human brain is featured in graphic detail and the exploitation of cannibalism is continued throughout the film.
How then can parents compete with the film industry’s glamorisation of violence? Violence is becoming part of our society, and some of it must be attributed to the amount of violence that we are subjected to in the media. As well as an influencing effect on behaviour, television has a significant impact on self-image and overall health and well being of a person, despite claims that there are advertisement campaigns promoting a healthy diet and exercise.
However in perspective, ninety eight percent of the time, commercials are glamorising the sedentary lifestyle with promotion of junk food and new technological advances that mean you can “stay in the comfort of your own home” and use the television or internet to do your weekly shopping. The effects of commercialism cannot be underestimated. Children are besieged by manipulative commercial messages day in and day out, on TV, and even at school. Companies hire psychologists to help them target children and manipulate them; we call this the “art of whine-making.
” Perhaps the mobile phone is the biggest example of discontent among teenagers as every seventeen days on average there is a new model on the shelves. The bombardment of commercial messages has created a sense of chronic dissatisfaction in children and, many psychologists think, has contributed to the increase in teenage depression. With the technological and social development in the world, television hasn’t fallen behind and companies seem to have left no stone unturned; every taboo is consistently addressed in day to day viewing.
Intense and disturbing imagery, including scenes of extreme violence but including other extreme taboos such as cannibalism, were once found only in films of extreme violence. More and more, these images are appearing on television and satellite broadcast. Particularly for children and teens, these images have an effect that can best be described as a reduced version of post-traumatic stress disorder. The intense and disturbing images return unbidden and at times obsessively since the children have little ability to process and sublimate the images.
However a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious national problem and sixty per cent of people have stated that it is getting worse. This relates to increased aggressiveness, lack of consideration of others and public vulgarity, all types of behaviours that are normalized by increasingly vulgar and rude television shows. Take for example the notorious “Jerry Springer Show” where there is uncalled for language that is consistently unsuitable and features that are far from ordinary.
Firstly, the guests’ language is censored because of daytime viewing and because of this it is extremely hard to make out what is being said, as there seems to be more bleeps than actual words. Next in question are the discussion topics featuring occurrences that are extraordinary, some are actually so unbelievable that they become humorous. It is unquestionable that television has shaped and accelerated this trend, rather than simply reflecting it, as television executives are fond of claiming.
Rude and vulgar behaviour on television regiments the behaviour and breaks down the social barriers that help children understand when certain behaviour is appropriate and not appropriate. Unfortunately, television doesn’t have to be violent or vulgar to have a negative effect. Excessive television watching of any description has clear psychological and physiological effects on people. The “Couch Potato Syndrome” demonstrates that the benign television content decreases children’s creativity and imagination, decreases physical activity and thus increases obesity.
Each year the average child watches approximately twenty two thousand commercials-five thousand of them for food products, the majority of which are high-calorie, high-sugar, low-nutrition items and meals portrayed on prime-time television are anything but balanced and far from relaxed. On TV, snacking is almost as common as breakfast, lunch, and dinner combined. During daytime weekend children’s programs, snacking comprises forty five percent of all eating events, while regular meals constitute only twenty four percent. Fruits are chosen as snacks on television only four to five percent of the time.
Clearly, TV does not promote good eating habits. Adding to this affluence and power are common themes of some of the most popular shows on current prime-time television. Some programs consistently glamorise materialism and glorify products. With high-fashion wardrobes, luxurious estates, and insatiable appetites for wealth, these TV characters portray the false idea that greed brings gratification and Life-styles portrayed on these programs often promote self-satisfaction rather than sacrifice, greed instead of charity, and conceit rather than humility.
Perhaps the most harmful messages TV brings into our homes relate to intimate physical relations. In the past several years, there has been a marked increase in the frequency of flirtatious behaviour and sexual innuendos on TV. Storylines and settings that include revealing or enticing apparel and explicit camera angles are on the increase. Moreover, references to intimate physical relations on TV, whether verbally insinuated or contextually implied, occur most often between unmarried partners-five times more frequently than between married couples.
References to such relations with prostitutes come in second. Together, references to sexual conduct between unmarried partners and with prostitutes account for about seventy percent of all references to intimate physical conduct on television. Television is undoubtedly a sex educator of children and a potentially powerful one. Contemporary television entertainment is saturated with lessons that are likely to have an impact on young viewers’ sexual development and behaviour.
The notorious soap, Coronation Street, is thought to be suitable for “family viewing,” yet a teenage pregnancy, a few years ago was aired and the particular girl has apparently benefited from it and at present is living with her boyfriend, to whom she is expecting a child and who she is blissfully unaware of the fact that he is a homosexual. In this particular instant, three taboos are referenced and broken at once; living together before marriage, pregnancy before marriage and the exploitation of homosexual tendencies and behaviour. When asked, my grandmother said that television had definitely developed but, in doing so “took a wrong turn.
” She told me, “I would have never dreamed of two teenagers having relations outside marriage, let alone watching the actual process, during family time viewing. ” It definitely seems that the television industry needs to sort their act out in order to ensure that not too much over exaggeration is broadcasted daily on the TV screen. So why in effect is television portrayed as having a positive influence to any extent on someone’s life? The only depiction of television in a good light is the broadcasting of children’s television programmes aimed at those between the ages of two and five.
However, even at this, companies are negligent and inconsiderate. Programmes of such description are usually aired at unsociable hours of the morning or night as they don’t make for high viewing interests and thus companies lose out, so how can a child view a “beneficial” programme when it’s broadcasted at times when a child can’t watch it? However it has also been proven that such educational programmes also have a negative effect on children. Programmes like the “Teletubbies” and “Boo-Bahs” have been shown to cause a steady rise in speech impediments, as proper vocabulary has not been demonstrated, with “Eh-Ho” replacing “hello.
” Hence the underlying, negative aspects outweigh even issues that are supposed to be in favour of television. Excessive TV viewing is a behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition that sometimes becomes involuntary. For many families, watching television is more than a habit; it’s a dependency, marked by withdrawal and dysfunction when the TV set is not available. It is becoming a pattern that requires diligent effort to break. In effect, when taken to excess, the impact television has on a person is undoubtedly pessimistic; it certainly can give someone a thoroughly dull mind and a huge waistline.