The argument over whether or not television is harmful to children due to its content has been ongoing for decades. It is a discussion that remains mired in subjectivity thanks to the varied effects that can be seen upon many different children living in many different regions and social strata across the world. For those who do not possess a television in the home it is not an issue, but for those that do, the contention that too much television is harmful to children is a debate that has lingered for many years. The impact of television on children is only negative when coupled with other various factors.
Many parents and other adults would insist that many programs featured on television both in the current day and in years past were harmful in various ways to the development of children aged 3-12. Rhiannon Kavity (2013) goes so far as to indicate that this is considered a gathering of several important developmental milestones in a child’s life when they learn not only how to interact with those closest to them, but to others within a social setting as well. As is shown by Holtzman (18) children tend to mimic that which they hear and see beginning around age 2 to 3, dependent upon the child, it is important that they be shown appropriate role models to follow and emulate. Parents are essentially responsible for the negative impacts that television might have on their children, as they control what their child sees, when, and how often.
Television shows such as the popular Game of Thrones and controversial movies like
Fifty Shades of Grey, created for and typically marketed to adults, have become accessible by any child who is capable of working a remote control. Robertson, McAnally, and Hancox (2012) contend that both the content and the amount of time spent watching shows and movies that belong to certain genres has been seen to cause antisocial behaviors in young children. Several factors come into play when discussing the effects that television can have on children. In particular, shows that deal with situations that children are not ready to face can be particularly harmful and further behaviors that are seen as less than favorable in society. When left unattended by parents and not given a proper context to operate under, children look to the nearest example of behavior to emulate.
Given the examples above it is crucial to instruct and teach children that while they may in fact watch such programs, the behaviors that are displayed in such programs are not what is desired within society. The sexuality, violence, and deviant behaviors that are present in both Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Grey are to be seen as entertainment and nothing more, though such scenes are not typically meant to be viewed by children. In order to help children better understand some parents would seek to watch the film and show first so they might better explain the observed behaviors and actions, while other parents would forbid the viewing of such media entirely. The negative impact levied upon children by such media is not on its own a plausible excuse to blame the shows, but instead a convenient method by which to blame film and television for attempting to corrupt the youth of the current age.
While it is very possible for the violence that occurs in Game of Thrones and the sexual
content in Fifty Shades of Grey to influence young children, it is still not enough to create such
radical negativity. Children from the age of 3 to 12 do in fact need a steady guide through their
developmental stages. Allowing children to learn through television shows and movies that show
situations that are best handled by adults is not the manner by which to create a fully functioning and mentally capable adolescent, much less an adult. While both productions display antisocial and even harmful behaviors, according to Tiberio, Kerr, Capaldi, Pears, Kim, and Nowicka (2014) they pale in comparison to the neglect shown by parents that allow their children to watch and learn from such sources.
The process of learning how children are affected by the media and its many different presentations is a matter of observing and deducing what causes behavior. There are many variables other than television that can cause a young child to become a troubled adolescent. Since its inclusion into American culture, the television has become a mainstay of life for many and a luxury for others. For the former the television is a means of watching current events and sitting down to an entertaining show now and again. For the latter it is a privilege that may or may not be the cause of children becoming antisocial and developmentally troubled.
There is no doubt that excessive amounts of exposure to television and the continuously changing programs that are featured can lead to troubling behaviors committed by the children that watch them. Unfortunately simply blaming the programs and movies is far too simplistic as it does not assign the true blame where it lies. For all that the programs listed above, along with many others, display negative and even abusive behaviors, it is the responsibility of the parent to inform their children of what is considered right and wrong. Television is not the only reason why children become troubled, but it is a catalyst.
Careful review and research upon the subject of how television and its programs
influence childhood behaviors and development show that it is more common for children to be
affected when the exposure level is very high. In some cases it is considered wise for very young
children to watch little to no television per day, as this allows them to explore and socialize with
their parents, siblings, and other children if possible. While aggressive and violent behavior in shows and movies can influence children’s behaviors, it is still only likely if they are exposed to such programs on a continuous basis. With moderate levels of exposure it is commonly seen that negative effects are rare or non-existent.
Television can be a much more engaging learning tool than in previous generations, but it still requires moderation. Children still need interaction outside of the home. Hours of inactivity can foster unhealthy eating habits, obesity, and other various health and developmental concerns that can have an adverse effect later in life. Socialization is just as important as it is vital for children to learn how to interact with others so as to become a more functional part of society. Television can offer a suitable learning platform for young children, but needs to be moderated so as not to keep children from important developmental milestones.
Shows and movies that depict violent and adult situations are not the root of the problem. The negative impacts upon children and their development comes from the lack of proper guidance and parental control over what kids watch and how often. There are programs that are less than educational and acceptable for younger children, but again, allowing them to watch said programs is the responsibility of the parent. While it is not always possible to monitor what a child watches, it is still important to teach them the difference between acceptable behavior and what is shown on television.
The issue of how television impacts children is one that is not easily solved but can still
be alleviated in some ways. Children are capable of determining what is real and what is not
when they are given the proper guidance by their parents or guardians. In this manner it is
possible to erase any negative impacts that television might have upon young children. The
easiest way to negate television’s more negative images after all is to simply turn it off.
Holtzman, Linda. Media Messages: What Film, Television, and Popular Music Teach Us About
Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2000. Print. Kavity, Rhiannon. “How Young is Too Young for Game of Thrones?” HBO Watch. 1 May
- Web. 9 May 2016.
Robertson, Lindsay A.; McAnally, Helena M.; Hancox, Robert J. “Childhood and Adolescent
Television Viewing and Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood.” Pediatrics 131.3 (2013): Web.
Tiberio, Stacey S. PhD, et al. “Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Consumption: : The Long
term Influences on Body Mass Index in Children.” Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics 168.5 (2014): 414-421. Web.