In general terms, mass media can be described as the channels of communication through which the wider audience gets the messages in a simultaneous manner. It is a crucial fact that the children in the contemporary era are greatly affected by the mass media. Television — video games, and social media are playing a distinctive role to shape the identity and culture of people today, children in particula —. In addition, mass media is also having a great effect on the interaction and communication of children with their parents, family members, friends, classmates and society (Livingstone & Bovill, 2001).
A majority of children start involving themselves in dangerous activities when they enter the adolescent age. Such activities not only affect their physical health but also their psychological wellbeing. According to research, youth all around the world is threatened by six serious health risks that may eventually lead them to death and immobility. Those hazardous health behaviors include use of alcohol, smoking, physical disabilities, violence, poor eating habits (anorexia nervosa, bulimia, obesity etc.) and unsafe sexual orientations. It is a frightening reality as the youngsters make their lives miserable by making themselves physically and morally weak. Such circumstances put their present and future wellbeing in danger by affecting their academic skills and thereby weakening the employment opportunities. As a result, most of the teenagers become delinquent due to rejection, dejection and isolation. One of the major factors of the mentioned health hazards is the constant exposure to mass media that includes violent programs (action movies, wrestling), video games and the list goes on (Escobar-Chaves & Anderson, 2008).
It is an undeniable fact that more or less every society in the world today has mass media as one of the most essential ingredients. Almost every child born in this millennium knows what a television is from the moment he starts observing things. There are at least one television set and a computer in every home, in the urban areas. Majority of kids have easy access to several television sets, computers, mobile phones and other gadgets that allow him/her to see different programs, play different video games, use Internet, and so on. It won’t be incorrect to state that a child is exposed to mass media from the stage of infancy. Most children know how to use a remote control, start a computer, and use a mobile phone even before they enter in a typical education setting. There is a widespread disposition that mass media is a major reason social ills have escalated today more than ever. Children’s academic skills have gone through a decline as they have started to spend more time in front of televisions and computers. It is also an unfortuknate fact that the moral and ethical values as well as socialization has crumpled due to constant exposure of mass media. It can be easily concluded that the innocent and naïve hearts and minds of children are impacted negatively. At the same time, it is also important to remember that that mass media has several advantages and it does not encourage violence only. Mass media also informs children about the current happenings and educational programs. Thus, as every picture has a dark and bright side; mass violence has its pros and cons. (Zillmann, Bryant, & Huston, 1994).
Parents today now face an overwhelming challenge to raise their children. With mass media becoming a very important and unavoidable home utility, families’ role in nurturing and shaping the children is now widely questioned. Every age group, gender, generation and family is catered via mass media. It simply means that there exists a complicated relationship between mass media and its audience that include children, teens, and families. Media affects every group of audience in a different way and similarly, children have a different understanding of media as they grow (Livingstone & Bovill, 2001). Therefore, it is not easy to measure the effects of mass media on human beings as they are complex creatures. It is also not possible to find out what children think and the catalyst behind their actions.
Advertising that is to be regarded with suspicion (like cigarette and liquor advertising) seems very attractive to children. Such advertising misleads and deceives the young minds as children seem especially inclined to it (Thomas & Carpenter, 1994). Television can truly be regarded as a constant companion in most of the families and is usually the first medium of information and entertainment that is used by children. It is important to highlight that the mass media today portrays children as more sensible, insightful, and gifted than adults. The problem is that the families and parents do not keep check and balance on the activities of children that involve mass media. Almost every household today has the tradition in which the adults as well as the children dress alike, watch the same TV programs, videos and movies, and above all talk about the similar issues. Thus, the logic of the social order has been entirely changed by the electronic media. The parent-child relationship has been affected as the children do not look up to their parents as a resource of information. Instead, they prefer mass media to provide answers to their questions and satisfy their constant curiosity regarding adult issues as well (Thomas & Carpenter, 1994).
Violence shown via media can lead to aggressive behavior in children especially those under age eight because they are too immature to differentiate between real life and fantasy. They may perceive the violent images as and can be easily traumatized by viewing such images. Thus, it is advisable for the parents limit the amount of hours children spend before television. They can also reduce the negative effects of media on children by monitoring the programs they watch and restricting them from viewing adult-related content. It is also the duty of parents to inculcate the difference of fantasy and reality in their children’s minds and question them time and again in order to check how their children perceive information received through mass media (Herrington & Emmans, 2002).
However, it is also necessary to admit that there are a lot of ways in which mass media can provide a breath of experiences to the children. Children can receive knowledge and other personal benefits through television, books and Internet which may be not available to them through other sources. It is also important to identify and elaborate the positive role played by mass media in the lives of children. Sensible use of mass media can have a very gleaming and good effect on children. Television, especially, has got a very great potential in the development of important intellectual skills in children. Similarly, video games can help in boosting and improving the spatial, logical and strategic planning skills. By playing video games, particular intellectual skills are shaped up and exercised especially in young boys (Gunter & McAleer, 1997).
Escobar-Chaves, S. L., & Anderson, C. A. (2008). Media and Risky Behaviors. The Future of Children, 18(1), 147+.
Gunter, B., & McAleer, J. (1997). Children and Television. London: Routledge.
Herrington, S. D., & Emmans, C. C. (2002, Summer). Character Education and Media Literacy-Finding Common Ground: Media Literacy and Character Education Are Two Hot Topics in Education That Have Become Closely Intertwined, Perhaps Unwittingly. Knowledge and Understanding of Media-Media Literacy-Can Be a Successful Strategy for Promoting Critical Thinking and Intelligent Decision Making about Risky Behaviors. Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology, 11, 22+.
Livingstone, S. & Bovill, M. (Eds.). (2001). Children and Their Changing Media Environment: A European Comparative Study. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Thomas, E. K. & Carpenter, B. H. (Eds.). (1994). Handbook on Mass Media in the United States: The Industry and Its Audiences. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Zillmann, D., Bryant, J., & Huston, A. C. (Eds.). (1994). Media, Children, and the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.