Children’s use of media is socialized mostly in the family (cf. Bryant, 1990). Television is an essential part of family life. Viewing occurs mainly with other family members, especially for young children. For instance, in one longitudinal study, more than 70% of the time that 3- to 7-year-old children spent watching general audience programming occurred with a parent (St. Peters, Fitch, Huston, Wright, ; Eakins, 1991). Moreover, television habits are formed early. The amount of television viewed is somewhat stable from age 3 onward, probably because it depends on family patterns that do not change readily (Huston, Wright, Rice, Kerkman, ; St. Peters, 1990).
The process of learning is composite and multifaceted. The child should negotiate a series of vital tasks as he or she grows. The child must protect a sense of attachment to mother, father, and family (Bowlby, 1988). Then the child must move through the phases of separation and individuation (Mahler, Pine, ; Bergman, 1975). Here, the baby begins to move toward being a person (i.e., toward developing an internalized world of thought, emotion, and judgment that will facilitate the baby to be autonomous and self-regulating). From there, the child must start to deal with his or her issues of sexual identity, competition, power, and insertion in the group, elements that Freud (1933/ 1964) termed the Oedipal phase.
The relationship between unconscious fantasy and the growth of the personality can be understood from the following:
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The growth of the personality occurs with the maturation of the perceptual apparatus, of memory as well as from the hoarded experience and learning from reality. This process of learning from reality is connected with the development and changes in unconscious fantasy. There is a constant struggle with the child’s invincible fantasies and the encounter of realities, good and bad. (Segal, 1991, p. 26)
It is also been asserted by experts that media is somewhat unethical for children.
Television with its extreme reaching influence spreads transversely the globe. Its most significant part is that of reporting the news and sustaining communication linking people around the world. Television’s most prominent, yet most stern feature is its shows for entertainment. Violence in entertainment is a main issue in the growth of violence in society, Violence is the exploit of one’s powers to mete out mental or physical injury upon another, and exemplars of this would be rape or murder. Violence in entertainment attains the public through television, movies, plays, and novels.
On July 26, 2000, officers of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry issued a “Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children,” which was subsequently endorsed by both houses of the United States Congress.
At this time, well over 1,000 studies—including reports from the Surgeon General’s office, the National Institute of Mental Health, and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations—our own members—point
“Overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. The conclusion of the public health community, based on over thirty years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior, particularly in children….” (Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, Congressional Public Health Summit, July 26, 2000).
“The effect of entertainment violence on children is complex and variable. Some children will be affected more than others. But while duration, intensity, and extent of the impact may vary, there are several measurable negative effects of children’s exposure to violent entertainment…. We in no way mean to imply that entertainment violence is the sole, or even necessarily the most important factor contributing to youth aggression, anti-social attitudes, and violence…. Nor are we advocating restrictions on creative activity.
The purpose of this document is descriptive, not prescriptive: we seek to lay out a clear picture of the pathological effects of entertainment violence. But we do hope that by articulating and releasing the consensus of the public health community, we may encourage greater public and parental awareness of the harms of violent entertainment, and encourage a more honest dialogue about what can be done to enhance the health and well-being of America’s children” (Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, Congressional Public Health Summit, July 26, 2000).
New interactive digital media have become an integral part of children’s lives. Nearly half (48%) of children six and under have used a computer (31% of 0-3 year-olds and 70% of 4-6 year-olds). Just under a third (30%) has played video games (14% of 0-3 year-olds and 50% of 4-6 year-olds). Even the youngest children — those under two — are widely exposed to electronic media. Forty-three percent of those under two watches TV every day and 26% have a TV in their bedroom (the American Academy of Pediatrics “urge parents to avoid television for children under 2 years old”). In any given day, two-thirds (68%) of children under two will use a screen media, for an average of just over two hours (2:05). (PR Newswire; 10/28/2003)
Moreover, children at elementary level constantly struggle between fantasy and reality can be seen in the child’s deep ambivalence concerning accepting the difference between “what’s real” and “what’s made up.” The child frequently attempts to obliterate differences, particularly those existing between the sexes and the generations. The child wants to be everything; he or she wants to be his or her own cause, he or she wants to be unlimited. The child wants to be a boy and a girl; to be his or her own father and mother; to know everything without learning and so forth. One can readily see that TV (as well as movies and video games) can be experienced as a means to gain the delusion of gratifying those wishes.
However, teachers and parents distinguish that fantasy and daydreams persist to play an active, at times predominant, aspect of the child’s development all through his or her formative years. In many cases, it is not until early adolescence that we see children able to assimilate their fantasies with rational thought in a way that make certain that external reality takes an increasing hold over perception, reasoning, and behavior. Although many more years are required before the child matures into a person who adeptly and constantly discriminates the internal from the external in a usually integrated fashion. It is this slow and accruing process of thought and fantasy being integrated with the resultant increase in the growth of the personality that seems to undergo the most inhibition when the consumption of media images becomes extreme or defensive.
Children’s animated cartoons show how outer, media-based images “mimic” the form of unconscious fantasy. The cartoon is a psychologically charged, exciting portrayal of fantastic (animated) characters. Its form is simple: An underdog (disguised child) comes into conflict with others (the top dog = parents or older children). There is danger, threat of destruction or death that is conquering in a magical and effortless fashion where pleasure and laughter are the outcome.
The Coyote wants to eat the Roadrunner; Elmer Fudd wants to shoot Daffy Duck. Throughout complex and irrational activities, the “victim” triumphs over the “villain.” Furthermore, there are no real consequences attendant to the use of immense aggression and force. Magically, all characters reappear in the next cartoon and the cycle of conflict and decree, pleasing the child’s wish to overcome limitation and smallness, is repeated once more.
Further, teacher in classroom can develop the child’s ability to be creative, to construct a “transitional space” (Winnicott, 1978) within which to form new blends of inner and outer, is inhibited to the degree that the child’s mind is saturated with media-based images, characters, stories, and inspiration. The child must transform the “raw material” of both his or her inner and outer world in a pleasing synthesis in order to feel truly knowledgeable and in charge of his or her existence.
The passivity by-product of TV viewing leads to a restraint of autonomous inspiration and produces what teachers are seeing more and more: anxious, irritable, angry, and demanding children who are unable to “play” and who demand to be “entertained” in a mode that approximates their experience of TV viewing.
The use of drugs and alcohol utilize the same mechanisms as TV to achieve their psychological effects. As the substance user’s body and mind are chemically altered, deep unconscious fantasies of security, charisma, power, or limitlessness are activated. Hence, Winn (1985) was accurate in describing TV as the “plug-in drug” as the “use” of TV to fend off depression, anxiety, and conflict is identical in its function to that of drugs and alcohol.
The faction of “instant gratification” can be seen to plea to the universal wish to be the satisfied infant sucking at the breast: a mere cry, the feed and the bliss of satisfied sleep. The reality is unfortunately much more difficult, for what we see are increasing numbers of frustrated, angry, and uncooperative children, experiencing their wishes as demands, and their hopes as entitlements.
However, learning is fundamentally based on more about how to communicate effectively with children on the subject of coping with the intimidating aspects of their environment. It is significant to recognize that some level of fear is suitable and indeed may be important to survival in certain situations. On the other hand, overburdening children with fears of horrendous disasters that are either unavoidable or highly unlikely to threaten them personally may add undue stress to the procedure of growing up.
Because television is one of children’s main sources of information about the world, we need to be capable to make reasoned decisions about what to expose our children to and when. We also require being able to explain crucial features of life to them in an age-appropriate way that preserves their youthful optimism while encouraging necessary and suitable precautions.
Bowlby J. (1988). A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Rutledge.
Bryant J. (Ed.). (1990). Television and the American family. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Freud S. (1964). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis (standard edition, 22). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published in 1933)
Huston A. C., Wright J. C., Rice M. L., Rerkman D., & St. M. Peters ( 1990). “The development of television viewing patterns in early childhood: A longitudinal investigation”. Developmental Psychology, 26, 409-420.
Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, Congressional Public Health Summit, July 26, 2000. Also Available At: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/jstmtevc.htm
Mahler M., Pine F., & Bergman A. (1975). The psychological birth of the human infant. New York: Basic Books.
New Study Finds Children Age Zero to Six Spend as Much Time With TV, Computers and Video Games as Playing Outside; One in Four Children Under Two Have a TV in Their Bedroom. WASHINGTON, PR Newswire; 10/28/2003 Also Available at http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m4PRN/2003_Oct_28/109334573/p1/article.jhtml
Segal H. (1991). Dream, phantasy and art. London: Tavistock/Routledge.
St. M. Peters, Fitch M., Huston A. C., & Wright J. C., & Eakins D. (1991). “Television and families: What do young children watch with their parents?” Child Development, 62, 1409-1423.
Winn M. (1985). The plug-in drug: Television, children and the family. New York: Penguin Books.
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