In the United States today, 99 percent of all
homes have
at least one television, and 58 percent of all
children ages
6-17 have a television in their bedrooms (Miller,
1997).


Considering these statistics, it is not
surprising that
research reveals that television is a major
influence in the
lives of the nation’s children. Television
programs are
instantly available, and with good reception, via
cable and
satellite dishes, causing this medium to become
the coal point
of family life. Nevertheless, some families are
wondering if
they control the television or if it controls
them (Miller,
1997).

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By the time an American child graduates from
high school,
the typical child will have watched an average of
four hours
of television per dayothat translates into having
witnessed
8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence by the
time they’ve
completed elementary school (Miller, 1997, p.

38).


Additionally, children are regularly exposed to
between 50 to
80 commercials per day (p. 38).


Studies have traced such negative side effects
as poor
academic performance, obesity, aggressive
behavior and
precocious sexuality to excessive TV viewing
(Miler, 1997, p.


38). Children who are watching television are not
learning
social skills through interactions with people.

Children who
are watching television are not exercising young
bodies and
given young bones the resistance they need to
develop
properly. Three thousand studies that have been
conducted over
the last 20 years report that television has a
negative impact
on the development of children, yet we continue
to watch
(Miller, 1997).


Recent research indicates that it is not just
violence,
but also the type of violence that is depicted
that affects
the way that children relate to the world. For
example, when
the actors involved in the violence are
attractive, it
increases the chances that the violence will be
copied by
young views then if the violent act was performed
by an
unattractive actor (Kremar, 1998).


Also, a recent meta-analysis of 217 research
studies
showed that audiences are must more likely to
imitate programs
that contain violence that is justified then
violent acts that
are portrayed as unjustified (Kremar, 1998, p.

250). What
appear to be the operable factor is whether or
not the viewer
perceives the violence as part of the norm
(Kremar, 1998).


Children, not have fully been socialized into
societal norms,
believe that what they see on television is the
societal norm
if that’s how it is presented. Considering this,
it makes
sense that they would perceive violence as normal
if they
don’t have information to the contrary.


Boys appear to be more affected by television
violence
then girls (Kremar, 1998). Research shows that
they tend to be
more imitative of television violence then girls,
and that
they tend to identify with the actors
perpetrating the
violence more then girls. In this regard, there
is a growing
body of influence that indicates that age plays a
role in
children’s tendency to respond aggressively to
violent media
images (Kremar, 1998). There is an overall
increase in the
relationship between violence viewed on
television and
aggressive behavior as children age.


In other words, if children, and particularly
boys, have
no other role models to follow, as they grow
upobecause of a
lack of parental involvement, they will follow
the role models
that they see on television. It is part of the
business of
childhood to assimilate what it means to be an
adult. If boys
aren’t being interacted with by the adults in
their
environment, they appear to turn to television
and the media
for their ideas as to what it means to be an
adult male.


This has also led many researchers to speculate
that
there is a tendency for children to become
desensitized to
aggressive portrayals. Older children are more
likely to
report that they engage in aggressive-heroic
daydreaming after
viewing violence on television, and they are more
likely to
report that violence and aggression are an
adequate means of
problem solving (Kremar, 1998). Research also
shows that heavy
viewers are more likely to report favorable
attitudes toward
television violence than do light viewers, with
boys having
higher percentages of positive evaluations of
violence content
then girls indicate (Cesarone, 1998).


While the effects of viewing violence on
television are
well-documented to be overwhelmingly negative,
research has
also shown that family communication and
interaction can
mitigate the effects of this viewing (Kremar,
1998). In other
words, the family environment in which children
learn to
interpret and perceive what they see and hear
affects how they
perceive and make sense of what they are viewing
on
television.


Direct mediation, where parents comment on and
explain
television to their children has been found to
influence the
knowledge and attitudes children formulate as a
result of
television viewing (Kremar, 1998). In several
studies,
negative effects of programming appeared to be
minimized by
the commentary offered by adults that derogated
the violent
content (Kremar, 1998).


The solution to television violence is so
simpleoparental
involvement. For one thing, parents should get
the televisions
out of the bedrooms. A parent can’t tell what the
youngster is
watching in their own room. If that means the
parent misses a
football game or their favorite nighttime soap
opera because
the children want to watch something with more
family appeal
or because the content is too adult for them, it
seems a small
price to pay. If families are going to build
their lives
around television, they should at least all be in
the same
room, watching the same program, so parents can
interpret,
censor, and comment on the programming content.


There are, of course, other negative effects
associated
with television viewing. For one thing, parents
who park their
infants or toddlers in front of the television
hoping to
enhance their language ability are wasting their
time.


Research has shown that viewing television does
not contribute
to language development for small children
because there is no
interaction between the child and the mechanism.

Also,
studies have indicated that in addition to
parental mediation
in regards to violence, children should use some
parental
instruction on what to believe of what they see
and what
commercials are trying to accomplish.


Fox (1995) discovered that the perceptions of
high school
students in regards to commercials were
incredibly naive and
unsophisticated. The teens that Fox surveyed for
this study
did not appear to realize that commercials are
designed to
sell a product or service (1995). “Amazingly,
most kids.viewed
them solely as advertisement for the athletes,
which the
athletes themselves paid for in order to bolster
their egos
and their team’s reputation” (Fox, 1995, p. 77).


One teenager expressed disappointment to learn
that the
kids in the commercial were paid actors, and many
students did
not appear to be able to discern between
commercials and
public service announcement (Fox, 1995). This
teen said:
Well … I know that I’d be terribly disappointed
if the
kids in that
commercial turned out to be paid actors – they’re
just
real kids off the
street, like us…. They just couldn’t be actors,
ya
know? (Fox, 1995, p. 78)
This ramifications of this study are obvious.

Children
and adolescents who can’t discern the intent of
commercials
are open targets for every sort of clever
manipulation from
thinking it’s cool to smoke because of “Joe
Camel” to thinking
that they express their individuality by drinking
a soft drink
that literally millions of Americans consume
everyday (the 7up
commercials).


It really is shocking to discover that
American’s youth
are so unsophisticated in regards to media
manipulation. This
also has frightening indications as to what these
teens might
believe in the way of political manipulations
from extremist
groups. The indication isostronger then everothat
they need
parental direction and advisement in regards to
how to
evaluate what they see and hear through the
media.


Having discussed the negative connotations of
television
viewing, the good news is that there is just a
thing as
quality programming. Recently, Jordan defined
quality based
television programming on an index of quality
contributors
that included such things as age appropriateness,
educational
content, diversity and production valuesoprograms
that scored
high in all categories do exist (Hoerrner, Duke,
1998).


Programs on PBS, the Learning Channel, the
Discovery
Channel, the History Channel, and even programs
on network
television can be beneficial to children and
adolescentsoparticularly when adults choose them
according to
content and age appropriateness. Many of these
programs can be
enjoyed by the whole family and children can
benefit from the
explanations and comments that adults can offer
as to the
program’s content. Parents can pick programming
that reflect