It is undeniable that the media affects our lives from the moment we develop our senses and continue to do so for the rest of our lives (Ramage et al, 462). The debate that continues to rage on is the degree to which media affects our actions, thoughts, and the decisions we make. Today, we are living in a society that extols independence and liberty, and therefore to most individuals, it is quite scary that an external source, such as the media, influences our lives to such a high extent.
Therefore, it is not surprising that a number of people do not believe that the media has a strong influence on their life. However, when we are referring to children, the debate becomes personalized. Due to their age, children are very vulnerable and any form of media that they come across can have a strong influence on their life presently and in the future (Coca, para. 2).
Today, due to the economic pressures, many parents spend only a few hours with their children as they work long hours, this leaves the media as the only form of interaction that children can access, especially the television. This is worsened by the increase in the amount of violence and sex on television.
Does the violent and sexual content displayed on television influence our children? Sadly, the answer to this question is yes. Violence and sex in the media heavily affects a child’s development, hardly a day passes without a mention of violence among children, or a girl aged 15 or 16 becoming pregnant. These actions arise from the child’s interaction with media at a young age.
A Worrying Trend
A visit at an elementary or middle school exposes the degree to which media affects the way our children dress, who they interact and talk to, and their behavior. Kindergarten teachers no longer deal with inquisitive six year old children, or curious ten year olds in the middle schools, but have to separate two warring children now and again.
These children see violence and intimidation as the only way through which they can assert their authority and solve their problems. Parents and teachers cannot match the media in influencing children. A research carried out by Mediascope Institute revealed that at the age of six, a child has spent more time watching television than time spent with their parents in their entire life. This revelation paints a grim truth about our children’s interaction with the media.
Media does not affect children evenly, for example, the aggression levels among children after being exposed to violent material on the media varies fro child to child, but the effect is still noteworthy. The influence has been found to be stronger on younger children (8-12 years old).
Age and sex plays a significant role in influencing children’s response to violent media. Boys are known to be more responsive that girls. Other factors such as family background also come into play, for example, when a child is brought up in a violent family, the likelihood of being influenced by violent media is higher than those who were never exposed to violence. Many children believe that the effect of media on their lives is quite insignificant, a school of thought that makes it difficult to tackle the problem.
Violent Media Causes Aggression among Children
Behavioralresearch among children has shown that a relationship exists between child aggression and watching violent media. These studies prove that “violent imagery in television, film and video, and computer games has substantial short-term effects on arousal, thoughts, and emotions” (Hitti, para. 2).
These forms of media include violent video games, television shows, and videos. This is compounded by the fact that more than half of all television shows contain violent scenes (Tompkins, para. 1). There are two conflicting sides to this subject.
The media who promote the violent shows, video games and other forms of entertainment insist that this is safe and the others maintain that such material promotes violence. Research shows that children who have access to violent media are more likely to have feelings of resentment and decreased emotional reactions towards others.
While most grown-ups can recognize that media violence is untrue and that the actors only play according to the script, children are more susceptible. Children under the age of 13 cannot discern between reality and fantasy. At this age, the take whatever they see on television as the absolute truth. In fact, children are known to harm themselves while trying to copy the moves or stunts that they see in television shows.
The influence of violent media on children’s lives is summarized by the Academy of Pediatrics that state that “scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place” (Academy of Pediatrics).
Companies that make various forms of violent media argue that violent children prefer to play violent video games. Research suggests otherwise, therefore we can conclude that while violent games are played by violent children, the aggression levels increase due to the exposure.
The debate on whether various forms of media such as video games benefit the children that play them is wide open. Critics of video games maintain that these forms of media heavily influence children as they actually participate physically while playing such games. It has also been shown that children who spend more than four hours watching television do not work hard in their academics, have poorly developed reading abilities, spend less time with their peers, have fewer leisure activities, and are more prone to be overweight.
Positive Media Influence
Not all forms of media affect children in a negative manner: content of the media is key to the influence. For example, educational television programs that communicate specific academic or social skills achieve much success in their objective. Besides, positive and educational programs can enhance altruism, cooperation, and even patience among children (Wilson 90). Besides, media has a positive influence on the development of children: it helps them to widen their imagination and in developing their language.
The media has become a part of our children’s lives, therefore, rather than preventing them from having access to media, parents can monitor the type of media that children take in. Besides, parents must strive to stay involved in their children’s lives and not just let them sit in front of the television set or playing video games. Parents must also pay attention to their children’s needs (Ramage et al, 450).
Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting. 2011. Web. February 14, 2011.
Coca, Nithin. The Effects of Media on Children. January 2006. Web. February 14, 2011.
Hitti, Miranda. Media Violence Spurs Fear, Aggression in Kids. February 2005. Web. February 14, 2011.
Ramage, John D., Bean, John C., and Johnson, June. Writing Arguments:A Rhetoric With Readings, 8th Edition. NJ: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.
Tompkins, Aimee. The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children. December 2003. Web. February 14, 2011.
Wilson, Barbara. Media and Children’s Aggression, Fear, and Altruism. The Future of Children, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2008. Pp. 87-118.