Undoubtedly that the media has an effect on our lives. The debate that rages is whether or not the media has a negative and discernible effect on us as human beings. How much does the media effect out actions, our thoughts, our decisions and, in general, our lives?
We live in a society which praises individuality and freedom, and therefore to most people it is a scary thought that an outside source, such as the media, has such a large effect on our lives, and therefore it is no surprise that most people do not believe that the media has a strong effect on them. But when it comes to children, the debate becomes more personal. It is common knowledge that children are very impressionable, and that the people they meet, their parents, and teachers can have a huge impact in the lives of Children. I myself can attribute much of my current interests and behavior to the effect my parents had on my when I was a child.
Today, though, many children are in poor families (the child poverty rate in America is now around 35%), and, as a result, many children often do not have parents that reside at home. Often both parents work long hours, and the children have nothing else to occupy their time except for the media, especially television media. How does what the child sees on TV effect his or her behavior? The real question that faces society is does the increasing amount of violence and sex on TV effect children?
My personal opinion is that violence and sex in the media greatly effects a child’s development. The amount of sex and violence on TV today dwarfs what was on when I was little. Does a day not pass when their is a story about a child killing another child, or an even younger girl becoming pregnant? When I go an elementary or middle school I am shocked at the types of clothing that the children wear, and the way that they talk and act. Even elementary school children know about things that I did not learn about till I was in High School, and in my opinion things they should not know about.
Kindergarten teachers in many school across the country, often in poor immigrant neighborhoods, no longer get to deal with innocent, wide eyed six year olds, but instead have to become conflict resolvers between children who see violence and intimidation as the only way to solve any problems. Teachers and Parents cannot compete with television. A study by the Mediascope Institute found that many children have already, by age six, spent more time watching TV than time they will spend talking to their fathers in their entire lifetime.
Dean Geoffrey Cowan spoke in class about how the media does not effect everyone uniformly. He said that the effects of violence in the media may be stronger on some individuals than others, but that this effect is still significant. I agree with Dean Cowan, and I want to add that this effect is stronger in younger children than in any other age group. Many students in the class did not seem to believe that the media had a very strong effect on their lives and as a result seem to assume that this effect is uniformly weak, and unfortunately I believe that it is thinking like that is making it so difficult for us as a society to tackle this problem.
Studies have shown that the effect of violence in the media on children can be small, leading to more violent behavior in maybe 15% of children. But other studies have shown that this effect can be greater when children are “raised by the media”. It is hard to say whether a certain child will become more violent or aggressive due to the media, and I believe that other factors contribute to violence in children, such as problems at home, the influence of peers, or lack of a positive source of morals. But as a society we need to make sure that there are options for children in the media so that they do not have to exposed to so much mature content, and I believe that currently the protections in place are terribly inadequate.
The effects of our modern media on our children is something that we will not truly know for many years, if ever. History might give us a clue – the parallels between the advent of todays new media and the advent of books show that we could be in for a paradigm societal change. But no other media absorbed ones life in such a passive, complacent way as television and the Internet do to thousands of children. More research needs to be done in this field, but I believe that it is self apparent to everyone that the media does have a large impact on our lives. We determine our identity in relation to the media – our favorite television show, favorite band, favorite book, all are determined by the media to some extent. Ideally, as adults we would learn the skills to discern the effect of media on our lives and learn to control and to resist its temptations. Unfortunately most children and too many adults have not learn these skills.