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Managing the media
Children learn not only through real life experience, but vicariously through media exposure which defines our culture and shapes our norms. Exposure to television programming and video streaming profoundly affects how children view their world. Leah Davies advises us to take control.
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Adults who care about children developing positive life skills need to be aware of the various messages and ideals being conveyed to children through a variety of media.
As early as 1984, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautioned adults concerning the potential of television viewing to promote violence, obesity, sexual activity, drug use, and ethnic stereotyping. The Academy’s Policy Statement in 1995 confirmed that frequent viewers become desensitized to violence and believe that violence is a justifiable response to problems, and that television viewing is related to obesity and lower academic performance.
According to the Academy, by age eighteen the average American teenager will have spent more time watching television than learning in the classroom. In addition, they will have seen an estimated 360,000 advertisements that are often misleading and exploitative.
The following are some negative messages being transmitted to children via television programming and commercials:
– Be selfish, not generous or cooperative
– Be insensitive rather than empathic
– Show contempt rather than respect for adults
– Expect instant gratification instead of being patient
– Value things instead of relationships with others
– Be aggressive rather than using self-control
– Use violence instead of negotiating a solution
– Feel anxious and fearful, not safe and secure
– Use profanity instead of decent language
– Be abusive rather than caring
– Be promiscuous, not chaste
– Use drugs without regard to risks instead of saying no to harmful substances
– Eat junk food, not healthy food
– Take pills to feel better rather than taking responsibility to be fit
Through constant, unsupervised media exposure children are being socialized to be self-centered, unthinking, dissatisfied, impulsive, disrespectful, sexualized, violent, scared and alienated.