What we see and experience throughout the lifespan is influential in that it tells us how to act, how to react, and what is considered normal in a given society. Television is and has been for many years one of the guiding sources for many in their daily lives, whether it is over the decision of where to eat, what to wear, and even how to enjoy one’s free time. TV is quite possibly responsible for the way that many live their lives and make the majority of their decisions, and children are no exception. Being young, inexperienced and very impressionable, young children are far more susceptible to hidden messages and implied meanings that lie within television programs.
A good example of this is the channel known as Music Television, or MTV, a program that has been running since August of 1981. (Hagelin, 2005) From its inception to present date it has showed the most edgy, racy music videos and featured shows and programs that have been deemed inappropriate and cutting-edge in that they push the envelope of decency and public acceptance. From sexual content to adult matters MTV has gained a reputation for being the outlaw station that others cannot bring themselves to be either due to FCC regulations or a matter of ethical and moral standing.
The content of the average show that airs on MTV is considered almost exclusively for adults, which includes cartoons such as Aeon Flux and Beavis and Butthead, which are both watched by children of varying ages. While the cartoon nature of the shows appeals to children the content is decidedly far too advanced and, more to the point, abrasive for young kids to fully absorb. Children do not develop the social filters that allow them to realize what is acceptable and what is not until a certain age, and when allowed to watch such channels as MTV they are subjected to situations, language, and content of the sort that can easily cause confusion and spur them to act out in public, imitating what they have seen on television as it is, in their mind, seen as acceptable.
Such examples of improper material would include scenes of sexuality/sensuality, abrasive language, adult situations such as excessive violence and even substance abuse by children on television. (Vitelli, 2013) While other channels do in fact feature movies and regular prime time shows that harbor such images, more often than not they are discreet and carry a decided message along with the unacceptable behavior. MTV has continually pushed the edge in its programming since its inception, becoming widely known as the rebel amongst television stations in that it would, and still will, do anything to keep its viewers interested. With well over a quarter of a million viewers to date the producers have obviously found a way to keep their fan base and regular viewers coming back, though it seems less than worth it as it comes at the cost of many a young child’s development.
While MTV is protected by freedom of speech and even freedom of press in some regards, it is still a caustic, deplorable station whose programming, while not designed for children, is anything but educational or even remotely appropriate. A child’s education must come from a reliable, stable source, and MTV is anything but.
In the life of a child their first and most important teacher is always their parent, or guardian, who is responsible for allowing them to know what is real and what is false. In regards to MTV, parents need to at least find enough time to sit and converse with their children regarding the shows they watch and to ask questions as to whether or not the child knows anyone with the problems and issues that MTV showcases. (Fetzer, 2012) Reality TV is not reality, and this is a lesson that children should be taught first and foremost so as to dispel the illusion that television creates.
Reality TV is much like junk food, to be taken in moderation and not overdone. (Fetzer, 2012). Curiosity is natural for children, it is how they find their way through the world. The important thing is to be there as their guide, to show them the ins and outs, the rights and wrongs of what is shown and what is real. MTV is just like any other channel on television, it shows a dramatized version of life that some would wish to emulate and others realize is simply what is should be, a pleasant release from everyday life in the form of entertainment.
There is at least some correlation between children that watch too much MTV and the attitudes they display towards others, but once it is found out how much television they watch, not just one single channel, the correlation between MTV and behavior begins to seriously wane. Despite a preference of channels there is no one program that can hope to cause the dramatic changes that studies and researchers have claimed are a direct result of music television. Other channels that feature violent shows such as SPIKETV, FX, USA, and even AMC can be attributed with promoting violence and overly dramatic content, as well as sexual content that is not suitable for children. This is why disclaimers are posted at the beginning of each program, to insure that those who are not mature enough to watch such programming are made aware, more often by their parents that they are not to watch said programs.
As an example of its supposedly unreal and controversial programming, the show 16 and Pregnant, seen primarily by some as a demeaning and ultimately socially awkward show by some, is in essence a lean towards social responsibility. Not only does the show feature young women who have become pregnant at a most unfortunate time in their lives, it highlights their plight and goes on to show the difficulties and consequences of having a child before adulthood. This show, while seen by some as degrading, is in effect a push towards accepting social responsibility and teaching children that while abstinence is not always going to be the most popular choice, it is far wiser to abstain or at least be protected when engaging in sexual intercourse. (Chong, 2013)
While much of MTV is shown for entertainment, 16 and Pregnant offers a much more socially responsible call to arms, as it seeks to educate and warn all at once. In truth there is real little value in MTV’s overall programming, as it is and remains lauded as an entertainment channel, not a documentary, history, or even educational channel.
In regards to children and the effects that television has upon their learning, behavior, and attitudes, it is generally up to the parent to guide them, teach them, and instruct a child as to how be morally and ethically responsible. Television can only follow its programming, and therefore MTV is not solely responsible for what it airs. A parent must be diligent and monitor what their child watches whenever possible, so as to at least be able to answer questions, inform their children what is entertainment and what carries more realism to it, and of course, to allow them to know what is acceptable behavior and what is not. In the end it is the parent’s decision to allow such programming in their home, or to deny it altogether. If nothing else there is always the OFF switch.
Chong, Rachel. “How MTV Uses Its Connection To Kids To Push Social Change.” MTV. Fast
Company & Inc. 28 May 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
Fetzer, Mary. “Is MTV really bad for children?” She Knows. Parenting. 15 June 2012. Web. 26
Hagelin, Rebecca. “MTV’s” poisoning our kids.” The Heritage Foundation. n.p., 18 March.
- Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
Vitelli, Roman. “Television, Commercials, and Your Child: How much television do you, or
your children, watch in an average day?” Media Spotlight. Psychology Today, 22 July 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2015