Television is constantly being criticised as being bad for children. One of the first arguments to come up is the effect that violent TV has on children. It is a valid argument as most of the time TV violence begs for imitation because violence is demonstrated and promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want. Many violent acts are perpetrated by the "good guys," whom children have been taught to emulate. Adding to the lure of imitation is TV's freedom from restraint. Children are taught by their parents that it's not right to hit, but television says it's OK to bite, hit, or kick if you're the good guy. And even the "bad guys" on TV are rarely held responsible or punished for their actions.
The images children absorb also can leave them traumatized and vulnerable. According to research, children ages 2 to 7 are particularly frightened by fantastic, scary-looking things like grotesque monsters. Simply telling children that those images aren't real won't console them because they can't yet distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Another problem with television is that it turns our children into potatoes. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), there is a link between excessive TV watching and obesity - a significant health problem today. Children are inactive and tend to snack while watching TV, and they are bombarded with advertising messages that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods, such as potato chips and cookies, that often become preferred snack foods.
There are, of course, several other arguments against television - that it reinforces gender roles as well as racial stereotypes and so forth. A lot of the time, however, the positive effects that television has on children are overlooked. In this essay I shall flipping the proverbial coin and take a look at the constructive effects of television.
During the ages of three to six years, children learn and acquire important social skills and values which will shape the person they become. Television and videos are a part of many children's lives and we know that early childhood television viewing experiences have long term implications for children's development.
To fully understand the impact of video viewing on young children in Australia, Disney commissioned a 'world first' independent study, named Our Children's Media Diet: A Mother's Perspective¸ in 2003 which concerned itself with the television and video viewing habits of children aged between three and six years. The study was led by Dr Helen Skouteris, an expert in Developmental Psychology from LaTrobe University's School of Psychological Science.
The study found that Disney videos encourage children to be 'active viewers', frequently incorporating events and characters into their 'pretend play'. Pretend play is one of the most essential activities during childhood. Through pretend play, children develop language skills, imagination, creativity and the ability to take another's perspective.
Dr Skouteris says that videos such as Winnie the Pooh titles, Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins are very popular with young children and provide them with a fun and magical experience. "Films such as these are easy for children to interpret, are entertaining, and most importantly, encourage behaviours such as pretend play, singing and character role play," says Dr Skouteris.
According to the study, Disney videos promote positive social messages by showing children the importance of honesty, trust, loyalty, fairness and friendship. Dr Skouteris found that when watching Disney films, the majority of children recognise the difference between good and evil and value certain characteristics such as bravery and a sense of humour. Repeated viewing of animated Disney videos (five or more times) was also found to be an extremely common and positive experience. Repeat viewing is associated with greater enjoyment, greater appreciation and understanding of the storyline and children...
References: Wimmer R.D. & Dominick J.R. (1994). An introduction to Mass Media Research. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Pub. Co.
Center For The Advancement Of Health: Television Can Enhance Children 's Intellectual Development (2001). Retrieved May 20, 2004. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/01092406.htm
Your Children 's Neighbourhood: TV programming is more relevant than you think (2002). Retrieved May 20, 2004. www.poppolatics.com
Our Children 's Media Diet: 'A Mother 's Perspective ' (2003). Retrieved May 18, 2004. http://www.femail.com.au/effectoftvonchildren.html
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