''Children are dedicated consumers of television. A substantial part of their waking hours is spent in front of the box.'' (Hodge and Tripp 1996). What are the consequences of this constant exposure to television?

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‘‘Children are dedicated consumers of television. A substantial part of their waking hours is spent in front of the box.’’ (Hodge and Tripp 1996). What are the consequences of this constant exposure to television? Illustrate your answer with reference to your reading.

The question of what impact constant exposure television has on children has attracted considerable literature and media attention, this interest and research have been present since the beginning of broadcasting. With more programmes in production such as Teletubbies and the Tweenies that cater specifically for pre school age, surely whether it is positive or negative, there must be a significant impact on a child when the programmes are constantly exposed at such a young and impressionable age. Another argument I shall look at uses the example that some shows are too violent but are still classed as acceptable viewing for children, and then there are programmes that are classed as not acceptable for children but are still seen by children. I shall look at different consequences and in the different ways television causes a child to be influenced. I shall also touch on the frenzy produced from adults when their power of control over children is taken away by television, and discuss if it is well founded or over hyped as David Buckingham suggests.    

In this essay I will look at the arguments against constant exposure to television with specific reference to Neil Postman and consider his theories in relevance to the consequences there may be for children. I will also look at contradictory evidence that denies that television contributes to the ‘disappearance of childhood’ and can with the right balance of exposure and quality of production help children in their learning. For this I will use sources from David Buckingham, Barrie Gunter and Jill Mcateer.

I am firstly going to look at how television has attracted this fear into the general public. It seems, according to the media the growing rates of disorder are down to the mirror actions of violence that are shown on the television. I can remember vividly, the time when the James Bulger case was constantly in the press and a violent film seen by the accused was said to be the major influence for the horrific murder. David Buckingham also mentioned this time of ‘media panic’ in Britain. For some, it is television’s fault that society is at the state it is in today, inciting aggressiveness and disruptive behaviour in the youth. It is rare that a day goes by where a newspaper does not include some article on how the new age of technology is corrupting the minds of the young. Even yesterday I heard the news on my local radio station reporting on a mother’s plea to ban the off the wall American stunt show Jackass, after her ten year old son tried unsuccessfully to copy a stunt that involved jumping over a fire while someone else poured petrol over it. Needless to say the boy received serious burns. Jackass is a programme that is shown an hour after the watershed so why was a ten-year-old boy having access to a programme that is not intended to have a young audience? The answer is the increased convenience it has become for children, not having to search out material that is of adult content but it being readily available in their own bedrooms. Figures have shown that 36% of children under four years and 52% of children under sixteen years now have a TV in their bedroom (ITC UK survey 2001). 

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Others believe it is not so much the images of violence that cause replications of aggression in the young, but more the way that programmes are produced that can cause harm to young viewers. Postman argues against the fast track way television moves from one piece of information to the other as it can leave the child feeling bewildered and confused. The danger is that television is seen as passive, and therefore leaves the door open for easy access to the secrets of the adult world, and this to him, is the most serious consequence, ‘television cannot whisper, and ...

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