Media Influence On Children And Youth

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Recent research has shown that connections between children playing violent video games can cause later aggressive behavioral problems. Everything that children see or hear in the media from an early age affects them in some way. It is very advisable that in the best interest of children there should be a limit to their exposure to violence. Unfortunately, violence is one of the most popular forms of entertainment.  Over sixty percent of television shows contain some form of violence.  There are two very opposite sides of this issue. The media who make and market the violent television, video games and other forms of entertainment argue that children are drawn to this sort of entertainment, they believe that there might be prior exposure to violence in a child’s life who exhibit aggressive behaviour other than the media, and some theories suggest that exposure to violent media can provide a healthy release of frightening emotions; while the other side argues that violence promotes violent behaviour, period.

Majority of research agrees with the proponents who argue that violent media is associated with aggressive behaviour in children.  Risky behavior by children and young adults can include violence against others, lack of remorse for consequences, desensitization to risks to self and others, etc.  Children who view media violence are more likely to have increased feelings of hostility, decreased emotional response to the portrayal of violence and injury that lead to violent behavior through imitation. There have been several accidents related to young men attempting stunts that are done on a movie or TV show, which truth be told we can all attest to from our own childhood and teenage memories. The act of imitating what they have seen on a television show causes injury to themselves or others around them. If children begin to think, from an early age, that this type of violence is normal behaviour these thoughts are often said to be difficult to change later in life.  This is similar to how domestic violence influences children who are exposed to violence to either become offenders or victims because they believe that what they are exposed to is the only way things can be.

In the case of music videos, Up to 75% of videos contain sexually explicit material, and more than half contain violence that is often committed against women. Women are portrayed frequently in a condescending manner that affects children’s attitudes about sex roles. Attractive role models are the aggressors in more than 80% of music video violence. Males are more than three times as likely to be the aggressors; it also reinforces false stereotypes. According to research, a detailed analysis of music videos raised concerns about its effects on adolescents’ normative expectations about conflict resolution, race and male-female relationships.

The Internet, while a significant medium for providing children and youth with access to educational information, and can be compared with a huge library, has some negative influence on children and youth. With the lack of editorial standards which limits its credibility as a source of information, there are concerns to its adverse effects, such as:  exposure to pedophiles who use the Internet to lure young people into relationships, the potential for children to be exposed to pornographic material, exposure to violent/sexual explicit videos and movies, etc.

There is a wealth of information on how parents can protect their children from contents that may have negative effects, parental supervision is highly advised on all mediums. Parents should be encouraged to appreciate that there is potential for more good than bad, as long as one has the knowledge and is present to tell the difference.

What families can do to manage exposure to media:

  • Families can explore media together and discuss their educational value, by criticising and analysing what they see. Parents can help children differentiate between fantasy and reality, particularly when it comes to sex, violence and advertising.
  • It is important for parents not to allow their children have a television, computer or video game in their bedroom. A central location is strongly advised with common access and common passwords which should be released at appropriate age.
  • Television watching could be limited to between 1 h to 2 h per day, or less. Families may want to consider more active and creative ways to spend time together, this is highly recommended to foster bonding and communication.
  • Older children may be given the task of planning the week’s viewing schedule in advance. Ideally, parents should supervise these choices and be good role models by making their own final choices. Parents should explain why some programs are not suitable and praise children for making good and appropriate choices.
  • Families should limit the use of television, computers or video games as a diversion, substitute teacher or electronic nanny. Parents should also ask babysitters and nannies to maintain the same rules for media use in their absence. The rules in divorced parents’ households should be consistent.

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