Media: a Negative Influence on Children Essay

Popular media has begun a spiraling downfall. Television shows, movies, and music videos are becoming more provocative and inappropriate. Most importantly, they are inappropriate for children. Children mimic what they see or hear, whether it is from a family member, a television show, or a music video. They do not understand the meaning of certain actions. Children think what they see on television is okay to copy. When in reality, it is quite the opposite. Television teaches children to use inappropriate language, to act out using violence, and encourages self-image and healthy development issues, all at a very young age.

Children are the backbone of society. Before realizing it, they will be the lawmakers, the law enforcers, or the ones behind bars. It is important that children learn at an early age what is appropriate and what is not. Unfortunately, they are not taught these values from the media. Instead, the media will distort their perception of reality. “TV is not reality, but a version of it; it shapes our beliefs, opinions, ideals, attitudes, and behavior; and it is commercially driven” (DeGaetano, 2002). Children believe what they see on TV, whether it is true or bogus.

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It is the responsibly of the parents to teach children the difference between reality and make-believe, and what is appropriate and inappropriate. The first role models a child has are his or her parents. Children watch and listen very closely to everything their parent does. Thus, it is important that a parent demonstrate proper media usage. Children should have a limited amount of TV exposure. One study found, among all 8- to 18- year olds, 48 % of the media time they engage in is via live TV, TV on other platforms and movies (Children, Adolescents, and the Media, 2010).

One can infer if a child is exposed to TV, whether it be short or long amounts, they unknowingly run the risk of being exposed to behavior that is inappropriate. Children learn how to communicate from a very early age. The infant and toddler years consist of primarily crying and pointing. As children get older, they begin to practice repeating words and learning what those words mean. Increased exposure to television greatly affects a child’s vocabulary. They are exposed to new words that they may not hear from their family. Children do not know what these new words mean, and/ or how to use them.

One form of language that is not appropriate for a child is profanity. One study suggest, that parents should be more “vigilant about profanity in the media” (Dotinga, 2011). The study mentioned above gives an excellent proposal to parents. However, many parents are guilty of using such language in front of their children. A combination of television exposure and parental exposure to profanity is detrimental to a child’s vocabulary and clearly inappropriate. An excellent way for a parent to ensure a child does not watch shows or movies with profanity is by only allowing only “G” or “PG” rated shows and movies to be watched.

Still, movies that have appropriate ratings may still have mild profanity and or inappropriate language. In many instances, but not all, profanity is linked to violence. Violence in television is increasing. There are TV shows and movies that revolve around violence. According to Pediatrics, “Much of the violence on television and in movies is presented in a sanitized and glamorized fashion, and in children’s programming it often is presented as humorous” (Strasburger, 2010). Children do not need to see violent acts. Unfortunately, some children witness violent acts in real- time.

However, measures need to be reserved to prevent children from watching those acts on television. Children are not able to distinguish what is real and what is not real. For example, if a child watches a frightening movie they are scared and have nightmares. Usually the parent has to nurture and explain to the child that the monsters are not real. Likewise, children do not understand that violence or death in the movies is false. In contrast, parents hardly take the time to discuss violence or explain their children that what they see in the movies is also not real.

Thus, this leaves children with violent images in their heads with no explanation to what it means (Erwin, 2008). Another issue that comes with child exposure to violence is aggression. Children often act out what they see on television. If they see a stabbing in a movie, they are more likely to perform a similar act while playing. Unfortunately, children are under the impression that aggression is the key to getting what they desire. They may more prone to act out, such as hitting, instead of using appropriate problem solving skills.

Aggressive play as a child can turn into a more serious matter as the child ages (Erwin, 2008). Over-all violence is not an appropriate way to solve problems and should not be viewed by young audiences. The effects are detrimental to a child. According to Mwema, media violence affects children in three ways: increased fear, desensitization to real-life violence and increased aggressive behavior (Mwema, 2011). There are many ways parents can help their children understand violence in the media such as explaining the matter.

It is important that parents focus on the importance of limited TV exposure to children and the effects it has on a child’s mind. As discussed in this paper, inappropriate language and violent material both have negative effects on a child’s mind. The two merely go hand-in-hand. One leads to the other and they are performed together. Children, girls and boys, are both negatively affected by violence portrayed on television. Following this paragraph, the next segment discusses how the media negatively affects a child’s body self-image and the effects it shadows.

There is just as much violence on television as there is beauty. Well, what the media perceives as beautiful. Just as violence negatively influences a child’s mind, beauty is just as detrimental. Numerous TV shows depict what beauty is, or what construes as beautiful. Children receive this message and are unable to comprehend it. Thus, this leads to unnecessary body complexes we see in young girls. TLC’s Toddlers and Tiara’s is a prime example of how beauty can negatively affect a young girl’s self- image. The hit series follows behind the scenes action that takes place at beauty pageants.

The main concern here is that the girls participating in these pageants range from 4-10 years of age. These girls are able to express their creatively through interpretive dance, singing, or any other talent they obtain. However, they are judged on their costumes, make up, and over-all personality. The message these judges relay is “if a young girl is not the prettiest, has the best costume, or an amazing talent, then she is not beautiful enough”. The young girls participating in these pageants are told if they are good enough. They are all after the biggest trophy.

Usually, the show ends with a couple girls crowned and the other girls in tears because they did not win. The girls participating in this show are already showing negative effects. The young girls watching this show on television are exposed to these effects. Thou they are not participating they are observing these acts and processing them. They compare themselves to the young girls that TV glamorizes. This is the beginning to a very serious problem. At an early age, young girls develop unrealistic expectations. They believe beauty is essential.

If they do not measure up to society’s expectations, they create a negative self- image of themself. Girls with low self-esteem and self- image are more likely to be dissatisfied with their body (Mellor, 2010). The media is constantly expressing what a beautiful girl is. TV shows as well as commercials, and advertisements contribute to the decrease in young girls’ body- image. Many commercials use models and/or celebrities for advertisement. These models are generally slim, very attractive and wear sexually suggestive clothing. Once again, the media is presenting these women in an inappropriate way for young girls.

Young girls are programmed to believe that they need to wear make-up, be a certain weight, and wear certain clothes. This belief sends young girls into action. They begin to count their calories, exercise excessively, and in many cases develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (PEDIATRICS, 2010) Along with cautious caloric intake, young girls begin to obsess over their facial appearance and wardrobe. Young girls feel the need to make themselves pretty. According to many make-up advertisements, beauty is achieved by applying make-up. Make-up and wardrobe coexist.

Therefore, girls must also have the stylish and expensive designer tops, jeans, and accessories. The point of the matter is that young girls do not need to feel pressured by the media to look a certain way. Girls are different and that is what makes them beautiful. The media is sadly destroying their self- image and self-esteem. Child exposure to the media is a very high concern. These concerns are from parents, teachers, and doctors. It is understood that children should be limited to what TV shows or stations are watched, how long they are watched, and how often.

Many parents believe that their child is “safe” from harm if their children are in their room watching TV (Children, Adolescents, and the Media, 2010). However, some parents are not aware of the fact that this act is actually damaging their children.

References

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