Reality Television's Affect on Children

Running Head: Reality Television and Children 1 Values Portrayed On Reality Television Programs Gloria Cheek Eng 122 Instructor Bernadette Anayah October 4, 2010 Reality Television and Children                                                                            2 Values Portrayed On Reality Television Programs Television violence affects all who watch it, but its biggest effect is on children. Children’s minds are like a blank page, and television is writing violence on that page.Television violence is one of the causes of aggression and violent behavior in children.

This problem is not new, but in recent years it has gotten worse. In the last few years, violence in television programs has increased greatly. A study in 2000-2001 compared to a study in 1998-1999 showed violence is, in fact, on the rise.

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Verbal violence and coarse language alone increased by a staggering 78% (Lavers). How did violence become so prevalent on television? Sadly, violence is what people want to see; it sells. Society has slowly put its guard down allowing violence to creep in.Now we are faced with this detrimental situation which has been created. Reality television has affected the morals and minds of our young children in today’s society. The values portrayed in reality television have had a big impact on the morals of our adolescent children in today’s society. Young children and adolescents have no respect for older people, parents or people in authority.

Due to these issues it is felt that reality television is very harmful to our children and something needs to be done to stop the harm to our young people’s cognitive thinking.Young children, starting at about age three, begin to really watch a television program designed for their age. They will begin to imitate what they have seen on the television.

Children ages six through about ten often do not fully understand the difference between reality, Reality Television and Children 3 and what they see on T. V. (Ledingham). With that in mind, consider the violent content in television programs.A recent content analysis, The National Television Violence Survey, had several interesting findings in regard to violence in television programs: 1. 61% of television programs contain some violence, and only 4 percent of television programs with violent content featured an “antiviolence” theme. 2.

44% of the violent interactions on television involve perpetrators who have some attractive qualities worthy of emulation. 3. 43% of violent scenes involve humor either directed at the violence or used by the characters involved in the violence. 4.Nearly 75% of violent scenes on television feature no immediate punishment for, or condemnation of violence.

5. 40% of programs feature “bad” characters who are never or rarely punished for their aggressive actions. (Office) Many television shows do not portray the harmful consequences of violence, and if they do, it is in a unrealistic way. Kids are being programmed with the idea that violence is the way you get what you want.

The disadvantages to violence on television far outweigh the advantages- which are none. Research suggests that television is poisoning our children, and we are allowing this to happen.The research encountered a few complications in constructing a methodology for this study (PTC 2001-2002). This was due to the fact that reality series are designed to last only a couple of weeks. Shows like smack down, cartoons, and cop shows are just a few of the reality shows that are so full of violence and it is causing our children to think this is the way they are to Reality Television and Children 4 behave. Smaller children even think they have super powers and can help save people from evil. The research is intended to let people know that reality television is bad for our children.I am taking a stand against this type of behavior on television and would like to see improvements in our television viewing.

The networks are aware of this adverse effect on their young viewers and they should do something to correct it (PTC 2001-2002). The problem with reality television is more than just one issue, there are several issues that can be researched on this topic. The issues of this research are how reality television affects the morals of our youth at home, in school, and in society. Is violence on television affecting the way children view what is moral or immoral.This research will point out what children tend to think or feel about what they see on television. Reality television is not the only shows where children see violence and immoral acts; they also see it on cartoons. Cartoons are the most watched shows by younger children and adolescent’s alike. Television viewing is a major activity and influences children and adolescents.

Children in the United States watch on average 3 – 4 hours of television a day (AACAP, March 2001). By the time they graduate they will have spent more time watching television than they spent in the classroom.Television may entertain, inform, and keep them company, but it may also influence them in undesirable ways. There are important activities that children could be doing like reading, school work, playing, exercise, interaction with family, and social development but they would rather watch television.

Children who watch a lot of television are likely to: * Have lower grades in school Reality Television and Children                                                                  5 * Read fewer books * Exercise less * Be overweight Violence, sexuality, race and gender stereotypes, drug and alcohol abuse are common themes of television programs. Young children and adolescent children are impressionable and may assume that what they see on television is typical, safe, and acceptable. As a result, television also exposes children to behaviors and attitudes that may be overwhelming and difficult to understand. ” (AACAP, March 2001) Active parenting can ensure that children have a positive experience with television. Parents can help by: * Viewing programs with their children Selecting developmentally appropriate shows * Placing limits on the amount of television viewing (per day and per week) * Turning off the television during family meals and study time * Turning off shows you do not feel are appropriate for your child Some argue that television violence, plays little or no part in the rise in children’s aggression and the increase in children committing crimes. Although most of the studies done on media violence and its effects on children show that there is a direct connection between them.

Critics argue that there is little or no solid connection between the two. They also feel that many of the methods used in the studies have some serious flaws in them. Reality Television and Children 6 Dr. Jonathan Freedman, a Harvard and Yale educated social psychologist, recently published a book that contradicted the idea that pretend violence causes real violence. He argues that the violent crime rate began increasing about ten years after television was common in most homes, and did not stop until 1990.People assumed that television, and the crime rate went hand in hand.

However, as Dr. Freedman points out, this period was a time of great social change. More women were leaving the home and going into the workplace, more people were living in poverty; and the teen pregnancies, the divorce rate, and drug use were on the rise (Kirkey). These are viable concrete factors which could also cause the increase in child aggression.

The most common methods used in the research of television violence are case studies and experiments. Each of these methods has its own problems and flaws (Durkin).Case studies are based on crimes that actually happened.

One problem with a case study is that the individual may blame the media rather than accept responsibility for his or her own actions. Case studies can easily be influenced (Durkin). Experiments have one major weakness. They are performed in a monitored created setting that is totally different from a real life experience. Also people who are participants in experiments may often act in a way that they feel the researchers want, or they act out because they know there will be no consequences for their actions (Office).Even though the supporters of this view have a few viable points, stronger evidence leads to the idea that there is a connection between television violence and aggression in children. As violence on television rose so did crimes committed by children. They are now practicing what they have always seen.

School shootings, children fighting, and violent crimes committed by children are all becoming commonplace. Consider these statistics: Reality Television and Children 7 -In a recent survey 16. % of those students polled said they had carried a gun to school within the last 30 days -29. 3% said they began a fight within that same period of time -Between 1983 and 1993 there was a 94% increase in gun fire deaths among children -Every 92 minutes a American child is shot (Balbach) These facts are a reminder that child violence will not go away by itself.

With the increased violence in American schools and in child committed crimes, comes the question that has been asked for nearly half a century; does media violence, particularly television violence, affect children?Many scholars feel that there is a direct link between television violence and increased aggression in children. The U. S. Surgeon General, The Gallup Organization, Probe Ministries, The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Morality in Media, Inc. , and Virtue Media all have found that in fact there is a direct link between the two.

Removing all violence from television is something that will never happen, so who is responsible for what children are watching on television? A Gallup Study in 1999 found that 56% of Americans felt that the Federal Government should do more to regulate television violence (Carlson).Is it really the government’s job to raise American children? Many feel that it is. Parents need to take responsibility for their children and begin to monitor what types of programs they watch. Reality Television and Children 8      This research is important for a number of reasons, but we are focusing on how it affects the morals of our children (5-9), adolescents (10-14), and young adults (15-18). Parents need to take a stand against reality television and eturn to the basics and family based programs on television. There is so much more children can be doing instead of watching all the violence and sex on television.

Our children are being taught that is it okay to lie, steal and cheat. We need to do something about it. The research will show just how much reality television influences our children.

Gerbner’s cultivation theory seeks to explain the connection between the programming viewers watch and their perceived reality (O’Guinn, Shrum, 1997). The more children watch television, and hence are exposed to these distortions of reality, the more they will come to view the real world as similar to the world portrayed on television and thus perceive a greater real-world incidence of the over-represented entities. ” Because television viewing is so common amongst Americans, it is nearly impossible to judge the impact that it has on viewers (O’Guinn, Shrum, 1997).This research is important because our young children are having their morals challenged by reality television. Their cognitive development is still very susceptible to what they see and hear. Because of this development of their thinking they are making wrong decision, bad judgments, and a whole list of other problems. Profanity, sexual references, rudeness, and shocking behavior it is the daily menu dished up regularly on reality television shows that cater exclusively to teens and young people (Margaret Bernstein, Mar. 008).

For many parents, the reality television trend is probably a bit like having Reality Television and Children 9 your teen’s most troubling friends hanging out, cursing, and smoking, in your living room – except you cannot kick them out. There are no consequences, no value judgments to temper the snotty comments, selfish rants, and rampant promiscuity spotlighted in the shows (Bernstein, 2008).Some experts see an unwelcome and damaging push for kids to internalize the on-screen behaviors while others urge parents just to chill out and notice how different this generation is. Today’s young TV viewers, they insist, are nothing like preceding generations, who had morality spoon-fed to them in TV shows like “Father Knows Best” or “The Cosby Show. ” Just because it is must see for teens does not mean it is must imitate TV, they say. Is that an honest assessment? Or is reality television stamping its cultural footprint on the minds of youngsters? There is some evidence that reality hows are fueling a cultural shift, especially among girls (Dellasega, Wiley, $14.

95). Dellasega feels that teen oriented reality TV has played a strong role in the rise in e-mail bulling among girls and also helped spawn a new conversational technique she calls “take-backs. ” College- age students have the emotional tools to dissect the images and stories told in reality TV. But what about when younger children are watching shows that expose them to toxic personalities or such topics as sexual fetishism? There is no sense pretending that younger kids are not tuning in to the trend.Child development experts agree that adolescent brains are not wired to understand much of the world explored on reality television today, and this can be a problem.

Reality Television and Children 10 The unspoken reality behind the rise in reality TV trend is that it demands parents to understand that the “Father Knows Best” days will not return anytime soon. As much as parents might hate it, they have got to be vigilant against the onslaught of readily available mature content on television (Abelman, 2008). This makes the role of parents and teachers even more important than ever before.

Parents need to be aware of what their children are watching. They need to be monitoring and to a large extent controlling their access to media (Abelman, 2008). ” How much a child is influenced by seeing near naked, drunken romps on TV or teens trading verbal barbs depends largely on whether the parents step in to challenge and counteract those images. There is no way it can replace the immediate impact of a parent, it is not the message that is powerful but the context in which it is consumed.With a parent’s strong guidance even younger children can be taught to view the reality shows with a critical eye so they do not internalize and embrace the toxic behaviors. After researching the topic, I have come to this conclusion: yes, maybe not all reality television programs are bad for our children and that some even help to educate children, but those that are bad are destroying the minds of America’s next generation. Some would say, with so many studies and countless well known organizations arguing that there is a direct link between the two, it is hard to hold the opposing view.

We must always remember that children are the future of society. We must take a united stand and get the government to regulate television violence before it is too late for our young children. Reality Television and Children 11 References Abelman, B. director of the Media Arts and Technology Division, Cleveland State University American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) (Updated March 2001), Facts              for Families: No. 4 Children & Watching TV          http://www. aacap. org Anderson, Kerby.

“Violence in Society. ” (1995): Probe Ministries. 30 Sept. 2002 . http://www.

probe. org/docs/violence. html Balbach,Crystal and Mayer, Jenni. “Statistics on Teen Violence. ” Mar.

1997. 30 Sept. 2002 http://www. colosys. net/fmhs/archive-mar97/stat. htm Bernstein, M.

(2008, March 15). Does Reality TV for Teens Induce Bad Behavior. Cleveland Plain Dealer. Carlson, Darren K. “The Blame Game: Youth and Media Violence.

” 22 Jan 2002 GallupTuesday Briefing 30 Oct 2002 http://www. gallup. com/poll/tv/educaYouth/ 20020122b. asp? Version=p Dellasega, & Dellasega. (n. d. ). Mean Girls Grown Up .

Wiley. Reality Television and Children 12 Durkin, Kevin “Chasing the Effects of Media Violence” Mar. 1995.

Media Awareness Network 30 Oct 2002 http:// www. media-awareness. ca/eng/issues/violence/resource/article/ chasefx. htm

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