Currently, television became not so much an integral part of social and cultural life of millions of people in America, but a powerful tool of influence on people’s consciousness and, consequently, on the education of the younger generation. There is no doubt that, in addition to a positive value, it has a negative effect on the mind and senses of both young and adult people. The main thesis of the paper is the following: constant hours-long watching of TV is one of the principal sociological issues of the twenty first century, which has many effects on psychological and physiological health of young people in American culture, and their attitude to surrounding reality. Thus, the main aim of this project is to explore cause-and-effect relationship between television and people’s behavior, dwelling on the ways how television influences on children in general, and teenagers or young people, in particular.
At the first glance everything looks quite harmless, and what could be wrong if a child watches some entertainment programs, movies and vivid native or foreign cartoons in his spare from the lessons time. However, the huge flow of information which exists in child’s or teenager’s life day after day, can impact on the future development of the young generation in a rather bad way; moreover, not always parents, close friends and teachers can protect a child from a seemingly necessary invention of the past century – television (see Figure 1). The problem of the influence of television on the family and school upbringing and development of the younger generation was discussed many times by psychologists, educators, sociologists, and members of the public, but is still remaining unresolved.
Figure 1. “Naruto: Shippuden,” a Japanese anime. The image demonstrates an episode where the main heroes struggle with each other. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/business/media/hulu-and-netflix-gain-an-advantage-with-anime.html?pagewanted=all
One reason why parents are afraid of the ways television influences on their children is connected with the quality of various TV programs and their emotional component. Over the past decades, television has been arousing the interest of the family and other institutions of society due to its increasing influence on personality development among children and adolescents. According to sociological studies, presented in Gunter’s & McAleer’s (1997) book, television occupies a leading position in power of influence after the educational impact of family and school, as a channel of intense socialization. The essence of the feature is the predominance of an emotional relationship to the objects of reality, in the absence of in-depth knowledge about them in child perception of surrounding world (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. TV teaching us to overreact. This image demonstrates the way how emotions after watching TV programs may influence on the psyche of young generation. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-06-29-cultureofoverreacting29_CV_N.htm
Observing psychological component of the issue, it becomes understandable that exactly while watching TV the person’s psyche is influenced by activating different forms of information transfer; the simultaneous participation of organs of sight and hearing actively involves many layers of the subconscious, thus achieving the maximum manipulative effect. Human brain begins to absorb any information that comes through the television in less than half an hour. Let us remember that exactly suggestion is one of the principles of manipulating the masses. Thus, watching TV a person perceives information more deeply, he or she acutely feels a sense of joy or fear, and the psyche may be in a condition of inhibition or excitation to a greater extent. As a result, human psyche, depending on the physical condition, i.e., emotional state of mind, is excited or inhibited (see Figure 3). The more a person wears out during the day, the greater the degree of fatigue of the nervous system is. And, in the process of relaxation, the nervous system relaxes with the relaxation of the body or, in other words, excitation of centers of mentality control is also inhibited. The human mind is open to any kind of information.
Figure 3. Technological person. This image demonstrates the way how information influences on a brain activity. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=jacking-into-the-brain
In our time, the problem of television violence gained its particular acuteness. There is a lot of virtual violence in all modern dramas, movies, and even cartoons. The term ‘television violence’ has been used for a long time in the scientific lexicon, and combines a demonstration of the injury or damage to characters of television programs or movies. On the one hand, according to Cesarone (1998), there are many studies that show that watching violent programs and films on TV is associated with subsequent aggression (see Figure 4). It was proved that television violence may cause a short-term stimulation of the so-called ‘modeling effects’. According to Van Evra (1990), “we know that children are great behavior imitators. Even infants as young as 14 months have demonstrated significant and deferred imitation of televised models”. In addition to the previous statement Gunter & McAleer (1997) added that “Characters on television can provide role models whom children may strive to emulate. Even if they do not directly copy their favorite characters, children may acquire certain values, attitudes or rules from them”. For instance, let us remember a famous film produced by Oliver Stone ‘Natural Born Killers’. After its release there was an increased number of robberies and murders committed by young people, who claimed after their arrest that they were trying to imitate the heroes of the film. At the same time, on the other hand, some scientists, using the causal statistical models did not find any evidence of a link between the spread of television violence and aggressive behavior. But it seems to me that television violence causes further aggression despite the statements of various scientists.
Figure 4. Fighter boy. This image demonstrates an impact of TV violence on the child’s psyche, making boy’s behavior aggressive. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/201677-childrens-exposure-to-tv-violence-aggressive-behavior/
Television becomes also a source of vulgar information and pornography in American culture. There are many erotic films that corrupt and trivialize modern youth. It is terrible that young people may watch the patterns of vulgarity and filth not only on television but also in newspapers, magazines, the Internet – anywhere. Summarizing the information given in Kim et al (2007) article, we can also trace the negative impact of television on adolescent sexuality. It is hard to argue the fact that values, norms and patterns of sexual activity, which contemporary TV programs broadcast are often far from reality; they orient young people on promiscuity and different sexual contacts (which are not based on mutual feelings of love and responsibility), provoke and stimulate an already high teenage sexuality (see Figure 5). According to Kim, et al (2007), “Men are preoccupied with women’s bodies. Boys and men unabashedly ogled female characters, openly judged women by their physical appearance, and treated women as sexual objects”. As a result, young men are constantly consumed by various sexual thoughts, urges and fantasies, concentrating their attention on physical component of love, forgetting about true feelings of love and compliments.
Figure 5. “Let’s Get Married!” is a dating show a little like “The Bachelor” but with a dash of Slavic fatalism. This image shows half-dressed girls, whose appearance provokes and stimulates an already high teenage sexuality. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/arts/television/in-putins-russia-tv-mirrors-longing-for-normalcy.html?_r=1
Finally, there are no the same personalities in human society. Each person is unique in his own way and has the own lifestyle in the community, family, personal life; every young man or woman has the own goals, ideas, principles, and sympathy. Communicating with the world through television, everyone finds something valuable for self, including the ideal of the own existence. Van Evra (1990) stated that “Television has often been criticized for portraying the world unrealistically, in either overly positive ways or in excessively negative and stereotyped ways”. For example, watching TV, a young person creates an image of an ideal man or woman in the own mind. Some people are oriented on brave policemen or gangsters from American detectives, others – politicians, public figures, the third – well-known film actors, designers, athletes, etc. A person absolutely trusts the own ideal, having unquestioningly faith in his words and actions, and begins to follow his/her principles (see Figure 6). As a consequence, such influence of the ideal from the TV screen has a huge impressive action (bringing the person into a kind of hypnotic state), and influencing in different ways on human personal development, behavior, thoughts, deeds, emotions and wishes.
Figure 6. Britney Spears. This image demonstrates vulgar behavior of musical ideal for many teenagers. Retrieved from http://f33dyourhead.wordpress.com/category/book-reviews-and-info/
In summary, we have noted that the influence of television on young people is great, both in positive and negative aspects. Television largely determines the benchmark standard of the young person and even little child, his actions, tastes and interests, attitudes and purposes in life. Whether to believe the whole flow of information, to come under the influence of advertising, or to let stereotypes continue to manage the mind, to control the own life, i.e., to determine the extent of television influence on individual consciousness, a representative of the younger generation should decide by self. But the main aim of the family, school and the state is to teach children and young people to consume information in a proper way, to develop an ability to skillfully choose the most valuable and necessary facts from a variety of countless TV programs. Thus, under the supervision of the state, society, school and family television will turn into a beautiful assistant and faithful companion for each highly developed and educated person.
“Let’s Get Married!” is a dating show a little like “The Bachelor” but with a dash of Slavic fatalism. [Photograph]. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/arts/television/in-putins-russia-tv-mirrors-longing-for-normalcy.html?_r=1
“Naruto: Shippuden,” a Japanese anime. [Picture]. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/business/media/hulu-and-netflix-gain-an-advantage-with-anime.html?pagewanted=all
Britney Spears. [Photograph]. (2010). Retrieved from http://f33dyourhead.wordpress.com/category/book-reviews-and-info/
Cesarone, B. (1998). Television Violence and Children. Childhood Education, Vol. 75.
Diodato, B. (2011). (Photographer). Technological person. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=jacking-into-the-brain
Gonzalez, A. (2010). (Photographer). TV may be teaching us to overreact. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-06-29-cultureofoverreacting29_CV_N.htm
Gunter, B. & McAleer, J. (1997). Children and Television. Routledge.
Kim, J. et al. (2007). From Sex to Sexuality: Exposing the Heterosexual Script on Primetime Network Television. The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 44.
Stepanov, A. (2011). (Photographer). Fighter boy. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/201677-childrens-exposure-to-tv-violence-aggressive-behavior/
Van Evra, J. (1990). Television and Child Development. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Thesis statement: constant hours-long watching of TV is one of the principal sociological issues of the twenty first century, which has many effects on psychological and physiological health of young people in American culture, and their attitude to surrounding reality