Sample Research Paper On Negative Impact Of Television To Children
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Since it was first introduced to the public, television has been a common appliance to almost every household around the globe as a means to get information and entertainment. However, as television programs become more in tune with real-life issues and events, concerns have been raised with regards to the negative impacts of television to younger audiences. While there are groups stressing that these negative impacts can be lessened through strict program monitoring and parental supervision, others fear that television content can affect viewers even if they are immersed briefly with such content. Like its impact in adults, television has the capacity to slow down a child’s physical development, cause psychological and emotional impairment and foster poor social behavior especially if immersed to television content at a young age.
One of the major criticisms opponents raised regarding the impact of television to children is that it has the capacity to slow down a child’s physical development through a sedentary lifestyle that triggers further health complications. In the article cited by Block (2010) entitled “How Television Images Affect Children” by Ron Kaufman, Kaufman stressed that children tend to develop what is called an Alpha State wherein they remain completely immobile while watching television. Several studies have indicated that the Alpha State is connected to childhood obesity because as these children remain immobile, they tend to consume high-calorie foods in the process. Most of these high calorie foods are junk foods, which children tend to prefer due to the influence of food commercials screened in television. According to Coon, Goldberg, Rogers and Tucker (2001), television has played a key role in promoting food products that experts deemed unhealthy for consumers. However, these unhealthy foods continue to enter family life because of excessive advertising and changing preferences of children as they are influenced by these television ads. For children heavily immersed on television viewing, they see healthy foods to taste bad, expensive and too tedious to prepare while fatty foods were more convenient and delicious. Parents would often agree to the request of their children in terms of their food choices due to their efficiency and the influence of television advertisements despite their health risks .
Although they are indeed efficient to prepare and delicious for some, the more calorie they intake while watching television, the more chances these calories would transform into fat and trigger health complications such as obesity, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and cardio-respiratory diseases. Children would also develop distaste into doing physical activity as they would prefer spending their time in front of the television, which would increase the chances of contracting a health complication in the process . If nothing is done to correct this sedentary lifestyle, Fitzpatrick, Pagani and Barnett (2012) stated that it would only encourage the risks of contracting deadly diseases and affect a child’s physical performance in the long run. Cases have been brought forward showing children having weak muscular strength and mobility as an effect of poor health choices in their childhood and the health problems become worst in the future. Although the physical impacts of early television exposure can be corrected by later physical activity and improvement, continuous sedentary lifestyle may restrict active sports participation and complete recovery .
A sedentary lifestyle caused by television also affects a child’s physical development by disrupting their regular sleeping patterns, which is crucial for physical growth. In terms of sleeping patterns, den Bulck (2004) stated that children with television sets located in their rooms slept later in both weekdays and weekends. They also got up late in weekends because they could watch television longer since they do not have classes on weekends. However, if they are more-frequent television viewers, these children went to sleep late and woke up late, waking late on weekends and waking up early for weekdays. The child respondents stressed that they felt more tired, especially in the weekdays because they spend less time in bed. As a compromise, these children would sleep longer on weekends so they can recover from their lack of sleep in the weekdays . Despite getting their lost sleep on weekends, Li et al (2007) stated that children with television in their bedrooms or those who spend long hours in front of the television often develop sleep disorders such as sleep anxiety and bedtime resistance. Sleep anxiety tends to increase when the child watches violent television programs, making it difficult for them to fall asleep due to fear or stress. There are also instances wherein these children exhibit signs of daytime sleepiness and night awakenings due to their irregular sleeping patterns, affecting their daily activities .
Obesity is not the only health risk triggered by television to children that would cause further physical consequences. Escobar-Chaves and Anderson (2008) added that children would also become more vulnerable to health risks such as smoking, drinking and early sexual activity because of television. Despite the risks involving presenting content regarding these three health risks, smoking, drinking and sex are still very common in television portrayals. Several studies have indicated that children who watch television for more than five hours a day are more likely to begin smoking as compared to those who watch television for two hours or less. For these children, they consider that smoking is “cool” because they saw it on television. The same scenario is also seen in children who begin drinking because of television. Alcoholic drinks are also heavily advertised on television as companies spend more than $4.7 billion for television advertisements. As a result of this exposure, children as young as thirteen years old have reported to start drinking. Finally, children also become sexually active earlier because of the influence of television despite the risks of teenage pregnancy. Although the study regarding television and early sexual activity is not as extensive as alcohol/cigarette consumption, watching television shows with sexual content awakens a child’s awareness to sexual activity .
Aside from a stunted physical growth and risk to health complications, television also affects a child’s psychological function and development. According to Dunckley (2014), prolonged television exposure to children can cause grey matter atrophy, compromised white matter integrity and the onset of cravings which all triggers psychological impairment. Grey matter atrophy often entailed the increase on grey matter areas in the frontal lobe, which handles general functions such as analysis, logic, impulse and organization. Normally, the presence of grey matter in the frontal lobe is reduced throughout the years but its prolonged presence may also affect the child’s intelligence. Studies have also emphasized that the loss of white matter integrity and the onset of urges (cravings) also disconnects the brain from vital networks and affect how the brain sends signals to the body. Urges are often caused by the release of dopamine, which is triggered by one’s desire to prolong their screen time or the emotions played on screen .
In addition to poor brain development, long television exposure to children also increases their chances of developing aggression, poor cognitive functions and emotional uncertainty. Aggression, according to Slotsve, del Carmen, Sarver and Watkins (2008), can be taught to children through television violence and legitimize its use in real life. In the early 1990s, many “child-friendly” programs such as Power Rangers often depicted scenes where the good guys used fighting as a means to end a problem. The idea that good guys can fight the bad guys without consequence is then reaffirmed by the primetime shows following these child-friendly programs. Even today, primetime shows would have violence and graphic content in them despite knowing the usual viewing hours of children. For children, these shows legitimizes that being violent against a person who has done wrong to you is entirely acceptable and one will not be punished for such behavior or disinhibition. Disinhibition also influences children or other people to consider using violent solutions in resolving a problem more rather than use non-violent solutions. Aggression is also heightened when children start to copy their television heroes and copy their behavior. Since television heroes often come out unscathed in physical fights, children would then think violence would not harm them as they use it to fix a problem.
Aggression is also developed within children depending on how immersed they are into violent television content. In 1977, a study indicated that a person can determine if a third-grade boy or girl would have a very aggressive behavior in the future by checking the amount of violent television content they are watching every day. Violence and aggression actually work hand in hand with one another because it allows writers and actors to depict scenes which would reflect a child’s life struggle for independence and identity. As a result of this real-life narration in television programs, some children tend to perceive these narrations as real-life examples and compare their life with the aggressor. Similar thoughts and experiences are also seen in adult aggression and it also increases depending on how much television content exposure they have at a given period. Another sign that aggression and violent tendencies can develop in children is by observing their attempts to imitate their onscreen heroes. In a 1999 study, for instance, parents reported preschoolers trying to drown their siblings because they saw a cartoon character attempt it on their enemies. Others even attacked their pets or their personal belongings just like how they saw the attack on television .
Several studies have also indicated that psychological incapacity is also linked to poor learning capability and achievement in children, especially if they have been immersed in television since they were young. According to Pagani, Fitzpatrick, Barnett and Dubow (2010), early childhood is a critical period for a child’s development especially in their cognitive and behavioral development. It is the time where they learn how to analyze information, interact and utilize logic to solve small problems. However, early childhood exposure to television causes children to lose focus and attention easier than their counterparts. Children known to have longer exposure to television tend to become passive when confronted with learning activities . Jusoff (2009) also added that attention disorders were quite common to children who were immersed to television when they were 1 to 3 years old, causing them to become restless, confused and have problems concentrating on doing one activity. This attention disability further develops for every additional hour they spend watching television and restricts them from learning new experiences critical for development.
Cognitive development is also affected negatively by early television exposure as it restricts learning through all sensory functions. Normally, a child learns quickly if all five senses are active and allow easier analysis of the item or event in question. However, when a child watches television, he or she only uses two senses: seeing and hearing. According to Dr. Susan Johnson, while television has the capacity to replicate sound and images, a person would not be able to carefully assess the situation on a more personal level. The lack of eye and body movement when watching television also reduces the capacity of the viewer to learn how to read as they are only focused with visual and vocal scenarios rather than include written and readable content. As a result of the lack of stimulation for the other senses, children may find it difficult to read and understand textures and tastes .
Furthermore, children with high television exposure also resulted to poorer educational achievement. As television is now accessible to every child around the globe, they are free to view thousands of channels in one day and present endless entertainment. However, since their attention is now directed to the television program, they may find difficulties on organizing their time for studying. In 2003, a study done on children between ages 8 to 15 years old revealed that 75% had reported they found difficulty completing their school work because they kept getting distracted by television. School work also becomes boring by the time they start watching television, and answering them becomes more difficult especially due to the lack of focus they possess due to the distraction posed by television. Older children may even find their situation difficult to return back to their studies once they are distracted by television considering the higher level of lessons they have as compared to their younger counterparts .
In addition to psychological difficulties, emotional instability is also a negative effect of television to children. Wilson (2008) stated that children often learn and recognize emotions by seeing others and understanding their environment. Although some television narrations manage to teach children empathy and connect specific actions to emotions, television also induces fear and anxiety. Several studies have indicated that preschoolers and elementary school children often experience fear because of scenes they saw on television, which they knew may happen to them if they were not vigilant. Their sentiments and reactions are further stimulated by the real-life representations done on television. Although the feeling of fear and anxiety would pass eventually, the feeling is not easily forgotten and can trigger long-lasting effects especially for heavy television users. In a study conducted to 2,000 elementary and middle school children, they reported that heavy television viewing – for four to six hours of viewing every day - has the capacity to induce psychological illnesses such as anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress. The same fear felt by these children while watching television worsens in nature the more they are exposed to violent content. Fear is often created by television programs and media through typical dark or scary beings. In the case of preschoolers and elementary school children, fear immediately develops when they watch events or characters that look scary such as ghosts, witches and monsters. Some of these children may even become upset and emotionally unstable if they are presented with a more grotesque character. With this instance, it is clear that younger children take the character at face value rather than considering the character’s attributes. However, as these children grow, they tend to exhibit stress and anxiety when confronted with news events that were covered in graphic detail or have occurred close to their home. When 9/11 occurred, researchers discovered that American children had suffered from stress and post-traumatic stress due to fear and worry. These children would also display signs of stress and fear if they are close to a location wherein a terrible tragedy occurred. Although these children would slowly understand the nature of these events through time, they tend to experience more emotional stress as they continue to watch news events in full detail .
Finally, television is also known to affect a person’s social attitudes and understanding on social issues no matter what age they may be. Slotsve, del Carmen, Sarver and Watkins (2008) stated that violent or sensitive television content has the capacity to instill fear on viewers and become weary towards others due to the possibility of being victimized. These viewers would then see the world as a dangerous place and fear everyone around them or the “mean world syndrome”. As these viewers continue to watch television, they will continue to become suspicious to people and increase their chance of being a part of a violent scenario despite efforts for creating protective measures . Wilson (2008) also added antisocial behavior was also quite common to heavy television viewers because they try to imitate what they see in television and for them, the lack of punishment while being antisocial poses great merits .
Children also become socially detached because of what they see in television, affecting their social perceptions and reactions on various topics. With disinhibition in place, these children would become insensitive to the suffering of others. They would become less likely to help others, especially if they know that other witnesses have been in the area to see the event. Television’s representation on sex also changes the perception of children that sex is a recreational activity rather than an act that involves deeper understanding and responsibility. As stated above, children are now becoming sexually active at a young age, placing them at risk to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases .
Children, according to Buijzen and Valkenburg (2003) also tend to develop materialistic tendencies rather than to socialize and develop frugal attitudes. With television advertising product varieties and social stereotypes, children slowly attribute desirable qualities with material possessions. With the development of these anti-social tendencies, children exposed to sensitive and violent television content would find it difficult to retain social relationships. Television advertising, for instance, could lead to parent-child conflicts because of product preferences and purchase requests. As a result of these conflicts, these children would exhibit signs of dissatisfaction and disappointment, which may affect their ideal world view (influenced by television advertisements and materialism) and what people consider practical and sufficient .
Considering these negative impacts to children, it is clear that something must be done in order to prevent these negative impacts to happen to both children and adults. Supporters to television time often stress that television gives families the chance to come together and watch together. If parents are encouraged to guide their children while watching sensitive content, they may be able to prevent the negative impacts of television from happening to their children. Parents can even introduce educational programs such as Barney and Sesame Street to help children learn easier because of the show’s engaging content. However, these supporters to television time, and various government agencies around the globe, also agree that parents should encourage their children to play outside their homes and limit or monitor television time to ensure that long-term effects would be prevented .
While there are other forms of entertainment and information sources available in the market today, television remains as a favorite by many due to its capacity to bring both information and entertainment to the whole family. Admittedly, television does have its good points, but too much screen time and exposure to sensitive content may prove dangerous especially for children. Television promotes poor physical, psychological, and social behaviors that may prove difficult to correct especially if the child has been immersed to it at a young age. Children can easily adapt and learn from what they see and if they are not corrected immediately, they would carry such skills and behaviors in their adulthood. In order to prevent these negative impacts from surfacing, parents and other adults must act now to guide their children in understanding the direct and indirect messages broadcasted in television and see their possible consequences.
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