Effect of Media and Technology on Children and Young Adolescents

Effect of Media and Technology on Children and Young Adolescents

Technology has revolutionized how humans utilize their spare time apart from work. In the 21st century, the common man is presented with an exciting array of entertainment options that were none existent only four decades ago. The amount of information that was available and disseminated around the world 40 years ago on an annual basis is dwarfed by the amount of information produced in a single day today. Man is a creature of a habit, therefore, it would be of great utility to understand how the increased leisure options and information content have transformed the present man’s habits. Specifically, how have unlimited television programs, unlimited music, video games, virtual reality technology, on-demand information access, and collectively, the Internet and media affected the behavior of young people? The articles and peer-reviewed journal that this paper will discuss show that this topic deserves attention because they prove that correlations between media and technology use and change in human behavior do exist. Furthermore, research shows that the media has a predominantly negative effect on consumers due to the unhealthy content therein presented.

Children in the Digital Age, a paper by Applied Development Psychology Journal

Sandra L. Calvert and Amy Jordan take on this topic in a special issue titled ‘Children in the Digital Age’. The authors begin by pointing out that the state of children’s media has morphed into something new and different from what it used to be before the advent of the Internet. Even though television-watching as a method of consuming media content will extend into the near future, the Internet is transforming that by availing unlimited options to media content unlike the limited television with its limited pre-programmed channels and is increasingly creeping into more homes. This leads them to delve into who has access to such technologies, what are the usage patterns of such technologies, and who should be authorized to develop policies and guidelines to oversee children’s media (Sandra & Jordan, 2001)

They begin by referencing Subrahmanyam et al, who are researchers that investigated children’s preferred medium of use when interacting with media. They found that television was the main medium, but personal computer internet use will increase. They also recognized a big gap in how the different genders and people from different socioeconomic backgrounds accessed new media. The gap was said to be narrowing as time moved on.

As the article progressed the authors’ most interesting findings were from Valkenburg and Cantor who had investigated an important aspect of media, that is, how the marketing and advertising strategies affected consumer behavior. They showed that children as young as 18-24 months requested products they had seen on TV from their parents. Children do not possess the cognitive skills to realize that advertisements are persuasive and should be protected (Sandra & Jordan, 2001). Valkenburg and Cantor wondered at which stage did children understand and protect themselves, and whether a balance could be found between protective policies and educative policies.

Research by Turow elaborated on what Valkenburg had wondered about policy issues. The Children Online Privacy Act was one such policy and its impact was explained in depth. The results showed that the policy had a positive impact on the quality of media content. The Act stipulated a 3-hour rule where every broadcaster had to dedicate three hours of child-related educational content every day (Sandra & Jordan, 2001). As a result, there was a greater availability of educational programs, low violence and gender, and ethnic diversity. The authors concluded by stating that future policy, though in development, were important for regulating ‘New Media’ and addressing the needs of children.

The article’s main thesis is that children’s media is changing and that it should be regulated. The significance of this article to the world of psychology and the world, in general, is that it proves that regulating policies are beneficial and effective. Due to its nature, the Internet cannot be easily regulated. Therefore, access to unhealthy content is a looming threat and adverse effects are expected since the First Amendment protects the Internet. What I liked about the article was how the different research findings flowed and contributed to the thesis. I liked how the issues faced by one researcher were handled by another.

Effects of TV on Child Health, by Disease in Childhood Volume 83 Issue 4

Dr. Miriam wrote a comprehensive article that elucidated how media influences children in line with our thesis. The negative effects are far-reaching as the consumers are subjected to excessive and unsustainable amounts of time in front of the TV.  Dr. Miriam revealed startling statistics that support the prior statement, that is, by the time children graduate they have dedicated more time to watching TV than they have to the classroom. A staggering 15,000 hours on TV are spent compared to 12,000 hours of in-class learning (Bar-on ME, 2000). She juxtaposes this statistic with the fact TV content is characterized by excessive numbers of violent acts, references to sex, and advertising all consumed by the average child (Bar-on, 2000).

The author investigated the correlation between all this exposure to unhealthy TV and the aggressiveness, sexuality, and obesity of its youthful consumers. Granted, there are benefits to watching TV. A study done in 1970 by Friedrich and Stein show that children will emulate prosocial behaviors like kindness, sharing, patience, and self-control if exposed to them through TV. Sesame Street is an example of an educational program whose intended audience was children age three and beyond that demonstrated this phenomenon. The researchers found that the children who watched the show the most acquired the most knowledge. Consequently, if children can learn good behavior, they most definitely can pick up bad behavior.

When discussing violent and aggressive behavior Dr. Miriam cited the New Television Violence Study that reported that 61% of 10,000 hours of TV depicted violence (Bar-on, 2000). Children’s content was found to be the most violent. Since children cannot tell apart reality from acting, if they are convinced that violent behavior should be glamorized and has no repercussions as demonstrated by the televised characters, adopting that behavior will be easy.

When it comes to sex, children and adolescents were subjected to 14,000 sexual references and of those, less than two hundred were related to moral sexual attitudes like abstinence (Bar-on, 2000). The influence of media and technology is so profound evidenced by a survey of the same adolescents, which reveals that the top two sources of their sex education were firstly school then media. It is no surprise that most of these exhibited sexually precocious behavior.

Another impact of media on the health of children is that it leads to obesity. TV watching does not inspire a lot of movement or activity and, therefore, most children who are already consuming too much TV compared to school content end up living sedentary lifestyles. Consequently, they burn fewer calories and gain more fat. In addition to reduced physical activity, how the characters on TV shows are portrayed is significant. We find that thin characters are portrayed as food enthusiasts signaling a lack of consequences to the children for eating excessively. In addition to that, the children are bombarded by mentions of food and food advertisements.

The authors’ main thesis was that media negatively impacted the health of children and they provided the evidence by citing numerous studies and statistics. This article was important because it robustly defended its position, which means parents, and policymakers ought to be stricter. A society characterized by obesity, hypersexuality, and violence is not one that can flourish and this article acts as a warning. I like this article because it points out the goodness and badness of TV. Second, the author provided recommendations that were very helpful to both teachers and parents. Such recommendations included co-viewing and discussing the content with the children, choosing what they watched and limiting the time used to watch TV.

Effects of Violent Media on Aggressive Behavior

The third article is by two authors, Bushman and Huesmann, both Ph.D. Their research was a meta-analysis that was interested in discovering whether their predictive theories had consistent results with the other studies that had proven the effects of violent media on aggression. They inform us that they also tested the short-term and long-term effects of violence on both adults and children. A theory-driven hypothesis they investigated was why the short-term effects of exposure to violent media affected adults longer and why the long-term effects affected children longer. Their definition of violent media exposure included movies, video games, and music. In addition, to measure violent behavior they assessed feelings and thoughts of anger as indicated by physical giveaways like blood pressure and heart rates.

The conclusions drawn by the researchers and their explanations were as follows. To study how age affects the impact of violent media the researchers employed a Statistical Analysis system, the model creating a linear relationship between the variables. Results showed that the short-term effects of violent media persisted for adults but not for children. This is because adults already possess existing beliefs and schemas that make it easier to act out aggressively but in the short-term (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006).

Conversely, the long-term effects were more pronounced in children because they possessed the ability to encode new scripts more easily as their brains are highly modifiable. Lastly, there was no contradiction between their theoretical predictions and prior studies.

The researchers used a meta-analytical approach. The major drawback of this method is obtaining studies that have not been published. This is important because meta-analysis depends on a large number of studies to prevent publication bias. This article is important because it proves that children should be protected the most, which is consistent with the other prior findings of the first two articles.  I like this article because it documented its methodology clearly and utilized quantitative data. However, it was difficult to read due to complicated jargon and concepts.

Conclusion

These articles provided supporting evidence for the thesis, which stated that media negatively impacted its consumers, especially children, through the unhealthy content promoted. The articles showed that their mental and physical health were affected. Furthermore, it is in the interest of caregivers and the government to regulate the consumption of television, music and comic books for the sake of their children. The policies put in place are useful in stemming the negative effects of media. This is very advantageous for a holistically healthy society, which should practice increased self-awareness.

References

Bar-on ME. (2000). The Effects of Television On Child Health: Implications And Recommendations. Retrieved from https://adc.bmj.com/content/83/4/289

Bushman, BJ., Huesmann, Rowell. (2006).Short-term and Long-term Effects of Violent Mediaon Aggression in Children and Adults.Vol 160. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.160.4.348

Sandra L Calvert, Amy B Jordan. (2001). Children in the digital age. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol 22, Issue 1. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/S0193-3973(00)00062-9.

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