What are the Effects of Television on Student Achievement? Andrea R. Ogir Troy University Brunswick Campus July 21, 2010
Abstract This paper outlines in details the effects television and other forms of media have on student achievement. It also examines the influence that media has in student performance in various levels of development including the pre-school level, early elementary level and the higher levels of education. It further compares the influence that television has towards student achievement and the influence of other forms of media. Finally, the draft gives a detail of some of the features of media that damage the learning process.
Introduction Given the central role popular media plays in the lives of our children, it is important to have an understanding of the impact television viewing has on academic achievement and school performance. Parents and teachers alike ask the question of how much television viewing is too much. Few people would argue that an investigation of children's TV viewing habits could help parents better understand how youth occupy their free time. In addition, there has been growing concern over the relationship between the media and rising violence and other antisocial behaviors among youth. The relationships between TV viewing and academic achievement, age, home environment, and other variables are complex, multidimensional, and inconclusive (Bachen, et al., 1982; Beentjes & Van der Voort, 1988; Broome & Fuller, 1993; Razel, 2001). The purpose of this paper is to provide readers with a summary of the literature from the last 25 years regarding the impact of television viewing on student achievement and necessary behaviors for school success. Although the general picture from research is somewhat muddled, an initial understanding of the question can be achieved, nonetheless. It is hoped that this review of literature will provide a basis to implement sound educational policy and family practice.
A Summary of Television Effects Research More than half of U.S. students watch more than three hours of television per day on weekdays, and 60% of parents rarely or never limit their child's television viewing habits (Levine & Levine, 1996). The average television weekly viewing time is approximately 27 hours per week, while the average reading time is 8.1; a 3 to 1 ratio (Angle, 1981). Studies (Levine & Levine, 1996; Wells & Blendinger, 1997) support the finding that children watch too much TV and read too little. It has been argued that a negative side effect of high levels of viewing might include the promotion of "unintelligent consumerism" and a physically and intellectually passive dependency among our youth (Levine & Levine, 1996). Viewing habits typically increases throughout elementary school years, and decreases during high school years. The years right before and after adolescence are the most opportune times to shape TV viewing habits (Clark, et al., 1978). Individuals in lower income brackets and with lower educational levels watch more television (Housden, 1991; Mediamark Research Inc, 1996). Adolescents who view television during late night hours average more television viewing than do other adolescents (Potter, 1987). African American youth tend to watch more TV than their white counterparts (Caldas & Bankston, 1999). Teens who are in the lowest per week viewing category are more likely to continue their education by enrolling in college (Corporation for Public Broadcast, 1993). Some of the studies reviewed found no significant relationship at all (Gortmaker, Salter, Walker & Dietz, 1990b; Hagborg, 1995; Shastri & Mohite, 1997). A few studies (Felter, 1984; Kohr, 1979) uncovered a large and significant negative relationship, while most others (Angle, 1981; Clark, et al., 1978; Cooper & Valentine, 1999; Dornsbusch, 1986; Gorman & Yu, 1990; Patrick, 1991; Tymms, 1997) found smaller, yet significant negative relationships. Naturally, parents' failure to provide guidelines for television viewing has a lot to do with the attitudes and values of today's children (Clark, et al., 1978; Levine & Levine, 1996; Sharman, 1979). Patrick (1991) discovered that higher school social studies achievement is associated with "limited television viewing". Felter (1984) reported that achievement scores in reading, math, and written expression were "sharply lower" among students who viewed more than six hours of television per day. Researchers (Dornsbusch, 1986; Potter, 1987) have stated that a negative relationship does not begin to manifest itself until a child exceeds a 10 or more hour per week threshold, with the strongest negative relationship observed for 30 or more hours of viewing. Razel (2001) reported a curvilinear relationship for each age group up to 20 years. Each category had an optimal range of viewing times that allowed for a positive impact up to a certain amount, and a negative impact after a point of saturation. The fact that pre-second grade children possessed a larger positive relationship than older children might be a reflection of the quality of programming targeted at the younger group. According to the analysis, optimal viewing time decreased with age, which provided for an overall negative relationship when age group was not disaggregated. The author is careful to report the findings as preliminary. The impact of television on social adjustment and youth behavior is also not fully understood. Tentative findings are that high amounts of television viewing are associated with relatively poor social skills and peer relations among some youth populations (Clark, et al., 1978; Levine & Levine, 1996). In one study (Sharman, 1979), there was a relationship between low self-esteem and heavy viewing of cartoons, which is often viewed as a form of escapist behavior. When total hours of all types of programming were considered, however, the relationship was not significant. Another study (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger & Wright, 2001) found that preschoolers, male subjects in particular, who had an opportunity to view educational TV bFor a short time during the 1980's, the television industry responded positively to criticism about violence on TV, but the 1990's saw a rise in the amount of negative portrayals (Levine & Levine, 1996). Some writers (McVey, 1999; Minow & LaMay, 1995; Plagens, 1991; Sager, 1994; Stroman, 1991) have found that heavy amounts of childhood television viewing which promoted violence was associated with adult participation in violent crimes. Negative impacts might include the promotion of increased violence, teenage pregnancy, sexual perversion, disrespect for adults, and the stereotyping of low-status minorities and women. It is quite likely, however, that adults underestimate children's abilities to separate themselves from the violence, negativity, and the unrealistic problem solving messages of contemporary programming (Broome & Fuller, 1993). Generally speaking, it appears the effects of TV on violent behaviors of youth are largely dependent on situational factors, however.behaved less aggressively as adolescents. Research to date has not successfully disentangled the relationship between TV viewing and reading scores (Beentjes & Van der Voort, 1988; Wober, 1992). We know that formal schooling is not the only variable that impacts reading ability (Bachen, et al., 1982). Preliminary findings are that positive television viewing has the potential to enhance reading comprehension skills for younger children (Razel, 2001; Van den Broek, 2001), and can be associated with higher grades and the reading of more books (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger & Wright, 2001). However, IQ is a confounding variable that must be considered in all future research. Once IQ, SES, and other mediating factors are accounted for, the relationship between TV viewing and achievement weakens (Angle, 1981; Gortmaker, 1990a; Hornik, 1981; Potter, 1987). Race and class differences exist, but more research is needed to clear up a clouded picture. Low teacher expectation, non-involvement of parents in the child's homework, and high levels of TV viewing appear to work together to produce academic failure for minority students (Viadero & Johnston, 2000a, 2000b). We do know that there is greater usage of television by lower socioeconomic families and inner-city minorities compared to suburban dwellers and whites (Clark, et al., 1978). On the other hand, Gorman and Yu (1990) found a negative relationship between science achievement and high viewer behavior of white students, and were unable to find a relationship for black and Hispanic students. Caldas and Bankston (1999) posit that black youth utilize higher TV viewing habits and relationships among friends who possess a "television culture" as a means to offset the negative impact of homes and neighborhoods higher in incidences of single parent and dysfunctional family settings. Once family structure is accounted for, however, black patterns became similar to that of whites. Gender roles can play a small but important role in understanding the relationship. In one study (Sharman, 1979), children of lesser-educated fathers watched more entertainment television and exhibited more before school and unsupervised viewing behaviors. Children of higher educated fathers viewed less before school and unsupervised television, and watched more documentaries and less entertainment programming. Henggeler and Cohen (1991) found that a father's dissatisfaction with his marriage and a mother's stress level and ralated symptomatology were associated with high levels of child television viewing.
Many writers (Angle, 1981, Bachen, et al., 1982; Bianculli, 1992; Eastman, 2001; Levine & Levine, 1996; Razel, 2001) have demonstrated that not all television is harmful to children; television can yield positive, as well as negative results. Children from lower classes potentially benefit if viewing is done in moderate doses, as opposed to large doses or no amounts at all (Housden, 1991; Levine & Levine, 1996). Benefits for pre-school aged children are best realized if viewing doesn't exceed 3 hours a day (Razel, 2001). Interestingly, a few teenagers surveyed claimed TV offered a "wall of sound" that helped them block out distractive and uninviting home environments. This provided them a more conducive environment to complete homework assignments (Wober, 1992). Whether television's information enriches, impoverishes, or has no effect on student achievement is partially dependent on the content and quality of the programming instead of intrinsic qualities of the medium itself (Caldas & Bankston, 1999; St. Peters, Fitch, Huston, Wright & Eakins, 1991; Razel, 2001). If students are exposed to programs with high informational content (i.e., news programs or documentaries) students have a better opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills (Housden, 1991; Memory, 1992). If most of the viewing is of the low informational content variety (i.e., shorter fast-action shows, cartoons, music videos, soap operas) an opportunity for a detrimental academic impact is increased (Geist, 2000; Potter, 1987). The role television should or should play as an official part of the school's curriculum is a debate that is decades old. Kohr (1979) performed an analysis of data collected from 90,000 fifth, eighth, and eleventh graders from 750 schools and found no significant individual student level differences, but discovered a strong negative relationship at the school level. One longitudinal study (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger & Wright, 2001) found that adolescents who watched educational programs as preschoolers had a positive effect on their grades, behavior, creativity, and social behavior during later years. Another study (Wright, Austin, Aletha, Murphy, St. Peters, Pinon & Kotler, 2001) found that viewing of child-audience informative programs between ages 2 and 3 predicted higher academic performance of low-income children. Others are not as optimistic about the long-range benefits of children's educational TV shows such as Sesame Street. Some contend that the learning involved has the potential to reinforce trivial cognitive skills and produce distractible learners with short attention spans (Levine & Levine, 1996; Neuman, 1995). A common explanation for the negative relationship between television viewing and achievement is the displacement hypothesis. In short, viewing displaces activities that are educationally more valuable (Hagborg, 1995). Neuman (1995) identifies two additional theories readily endorsed by researchers: (a) the information processing theory--television trains student to process information in a different manner than what schools require, and (b) the short-term gratification theory --television programming promotes short attention spans and quick-fix, magical answers that are non-conducive to high levels of school success. A combination of all three theories most likely mirrors reality in contemporary society. There are many gaps in the literature. The impact of parental control, social class, race, and peer pressure is not fully understood. The inability to disentangle multiple variables has plagued the television effects literature (Levine & Levine, 1995). Some studies show a correlation with one population, but not for others. Methodological problems have been noted, namely the reliance on cross-sectional rather than longitudinal approaches (Gortmaker & Salter, 1990a), the underutilization of social context (Caldas & Bankston, 1999), and the failure to account for the influence of IQ and other mediating factors (Angle, 1981; Hornik, 1981; Potter, 1987). Since the effects of television viewing are not monolithic, care must be taken to consider various socioeconomic and environmental factors as well as the reasons for viewing. Clearly, program content is a more important consideration than qualities of the medium itself. An area that needs more attention is the impact school-supported television viewing has on achievement. Many educators use television quite extensively in their teaching practices, and would greatly benefit in knowing more about how to offset negative influences. At this point in time, it is not clear whether television viewing causes or is caused by low levels of achievement (Potter, 1987; Razel, 2001). In summary, the research appears to be saying that high levels of unsupervised mindless television viewing, especially when it is done in lieu of daily reading or other academic stimulation, can have the potential to exert harmful effects on achievement. The utilization of informational television, both in and out of the classroom, can have a positive impact on student achievement if properly channeled. Moderate levels of meaningful and supervised television viewing may be better for children than too much or no viewing at all. Implications for Parents and Educators: Findings on the effects of television viewing on academic achievement, study habits, negative behavior, and social skills are largely inconclusive and situational based. Although what we don't know about the impact of television viewing on youth is more than what we do know, we are able, nonetheless, to construct a preliminary intervention approach. Because cultural and socioeconomic differences and responses to TV viewing exist, educators and parents must view ea has begun to surface. Starting at the core of remediation, parents must become more involved in monitoring the quality and quantity of their children's television viewing habits (Viadero & Johnson, 2000a). We must not be afraid to make a TV plan with our children based on the following suggestions (Broome & Fuller, 1993; Eastman, 2001; Moss, 1998): Parents should require that homework and chores be completed before children partake in the pleasures of recreational TV. They must demand that children engage themselves in individual reading and family socialization time away from the television set. It is prudent to mandate that children include so many hours of informational programming into their viewing diet. Children under four years of age should have little or not exposure to violence. Look for shows based on children's books. A certain amount of viewing should be done together as a family. It is recommended that TV time be turned into thinking time. Talking and thinking about TV helps reduce its negative impact. The utilization of one's VCR and video rentals to prescreen what is viewed is wise. Classic movies and informational shows can serve to bring families together. Parents who come home late from work might find it helpful to have teenagers report on the specific content of their television viewing before they are allowed special privileges. It also may not hurt to have young children keep TV logs of their viewing, and provide summaries or drawings of what is good and not so good about various television shows as a way to earn reward tokens. Parents may want to keep an atlas and reference books near so that children can look up places they hear on the news. Point out how various school subjects are often incorporated into TV shows. Use commercials to clarify questions. Explain how TV sometimes promotes stereotypes. Help children understand that the messages behind commercials are mostly profit driven. Lastly, parents might consider discussing with their children the pros and cons of values promoted by today's pop media. Research suggests that after clarifying values, people feel more energetic, more critical in their thinking, and are more likely to follow through on decisions (Alexander, 2000). Likewise, educators must find ways to make television an educational resource instead of an enemy (Broome & Fuller, 1993). Schools would do better by embracing the medium and promoting homework via television. Classroom teachers might encourage students to (a) supplement their learning with viewing documentaries that corroborate subject matter found in textbooks, (b) provide updated statistics through current events reporting, (c) write reports on television programs about history, (d) contrast how a single event is reported by two different news stations, (e) critique informational shows for accuracy and objectivity, (f) report on television interviewing strategies and techniques, and (g) encourage greater reading comprehension and ability through the viewing of TV performing arts presentations (Memory, 1992). In addition, Levine & Levine (1996) suggest the following suggestions for classroom teachers and administrators to consider: 1. Utilize a "window of opportunity" component that considers age appropriateness and child development theory; 2. Utilize policies and practices that draw on literature about risk factors and validated strategies that change high-risk behaviors; 3. Attack academic problems within a holistic environmental and "family systems" approach; and 4. Encourage activities and lesson plans that teach very young children how to differentiate between fact and fiction. More conclusive research is needed to back up the preliminary findings of this report. Although some of the suggestions offered in this paper are obvious, failure to abide by them is far too common. Too often, there exists a parenting mindset of omission that ends up having monumental repercussions for a whole generation of youth. Since children find ways to watch TV regardless of adult supervision, it is best to teach and train them in the proper usage of a medium that could help them prepare for better school and career advancement.
What are the Effects of Television and the Media on Student Achievement? The purpose of this paper is to examine What are the Effects of Television and the Media on Student Achievement? Television and the media in general have great influence on the performance and achievement of students both in class and in their future careers. In America, children in the age bracket 2-17 years watch television for more than three hours per day which eventually translates to more than 25 hours per week. Studies and observations have shown that many students spend more of their time watching television than in any other activity besides sleeping. Television impact on academic achievement and especially in areas such as reading and other academic skills does not depend on the duration spent on watching but also on the content being watched and the age of the student as well. This is also in line with the saying that successful readers read more often (Clark, 2001). Pre-school Children
Watching television plays a vital role in enhancing the growth of learners at pre-school level particularly in their cognitive development. Various studies have shown that children who watch relevant constructed educational programs for their age perform better in pre-reading skills than their counterparts who do not watch television at all or others watching unplanned random programs. Similar studies have also shown that children who watch purely entertainment programs such as cartoons have poor pre-reading skills at age five (Pecora, 2007).
Television also influences the growth and development of children between age 3 and 5 who are at a significant stage in brain development for the establishment of cognitive skills and development of language.
The degree in which television watching affects the growth of brain neural networks and replaces the time the child would have spent in other activities and verbal interaction, affects early cognitive development (Clark, 2001). Early Elementary School age Children Learners realize more success in early reading skills if they possess experience with books or any other print media, especially if they were read on as preschoolers. Television mainly affects the acquisition of the early reading skills in two major ways. Since children can only acquire reading skills such as fluency through practice, television watching replaces the time the learner would have otherwise spent on reading practice. In this case, the acquisition of these skills is rather delayed due to reduction of the frequency of practice. It should be noted here that learners at this age require more reading practice before reading becomes their pleasure. Learners or children who spend most of their time watching entertainment programs such as cartoons are less likely to spend any time reading books or any other print media (Clark, 2001). Older School Children Studies on national education have shown that students spend more than three times as much time in television viewing than in reading or doing their homework. Learners who are heavy television viewers, those who watch for over 3 hours per day exhibit poor reading skills. Other studies have also revealed that a television on in the background alters the retention of ideas and information when doing homework. Patterns that have been set in early pre-school years in consideration to television watching can escalate as the child grows older and academic work becomes more difficult. Children who watch constructed educational programs as pre-scholars are likely to watch the same programs when they grow older and possibly use television as a compliment to school (Pecora, 2007). In contrast, children who view more entertainment programs than education programs in their early years will get used to television as an entertainment and leisure device. It can therefore be concluded that watching educational programs at pre-school level is associated with good academic performance, more reading, less hostility and more value in regard to academics when the learners reach high school (Pecora, 2007). Watching Television and Academics
It has been observed that television viewing takes away the time that learners would have spent reading, doing home work, exercising, playing, family interaction and for social development. Children also learn information from the television that is detrimental to their academics. Those who watch television for long hours are likely to under-achieve in terms of their academics due to health complications such as obesity and diabetes. Children who watch too much television are likely to have bad food choices with a large proportion of them preferring junk food and fast food. Their metabolic rate is also lower than when they are reading books. This is because television watching is totally passive. Due to these health problems, the affected learners might not achieve much in their academics since this also leads to loss of concentration and comprehension in class (Pecora, 2007).
Influence of Media on Cost and Access to Instruction
Media has a reasonable influence to the cost of learning and the simplicity in which instruction to students is administered. Researches have shown that some forms of media and symbol system result to faster and less demanding learning objectives. This is known as the cognitive efficiencies from media. Whenever a particular instructional method is necessary for learning, various media or symbolic modes will bear different learning advantage to learners with varying aptitudes. This makes the instruction process easier and faster in achieving the set educational objectives. Visual and aural teaching aids are examples of possible cognitive efficiencies that are applicable in modern instruction process (Bryant & Zillmann,2006). Researchers have provided supporting evidence that when auditory and visual symbolic modes are used in the instructing, the process becomes much quicker and easier than presenting information in mode alone. This is because the conscious human mind is usually supported by both sound and visual forms. Since information to be learned or to be applied in problem solving can only be held in the human mind for short durations, it is necessary to combine both audio and visual forms in presenting the information. Presenting information in these two forms leads to storage of the information in two separate sensory-based buffers. These not only increase the duration in which the information is held in the brain, but also the quality of the information offered to the learners. This enhanced efficiency is particularly beneficial to students having low prior knowledge but very strong visual abilities. Academic achievement has thus been enhanced by these facilities in the modern instruction process (Bryant & Zillmann,2006).
Advantages of Reading over Watching Television
Many scholars have supported the use of printed media in the learning process over watching television. They have argued that much of television watching is exceedingly simple learning. The speed at which visual images change and the quick pace of the scenes causes the visuals to suppress the language. Learners/children have no room for questioning as opposed to printed media where they can turn and ask question and proceed with reading. The attention or concentration span of watching television is also lowered compared to reading books where students get a better lengthened attention. This greatly assists them in acquiring the necessary information required for their academic excellence (Kaufman, 2009). Reading books focuses on higher degree learning and hierarchies of ideas while the television has few hierarchies. Television operates in simplicity of ideas as well as offering of simple solutions. These are weak attributes as far as academic achievement is concerned. In order to meet the set objectives in academics, complexity and hierarchical thinking is essential. Finally, for many young children, watching television fosters an antisocial experience as opposed to reading which fosters social experience. This is because the programs in television do not encourage conversation especially during the airing. Television also denies the children a chance to ask questions which is an important tool in the learning process. In addition, it equates the children as passive participants due to lack of a discussion forum (Kaufman, 2009).
Technology integration is another aspect of the media that has revolutionized the schools in terms of instructional process. This is because media has been viewed as a method of amplifying the instructor’s message and also as a method of delivering instructional content via computer based instruction or the television. Efforts have since shifted focus from using computers as a means of delivering instruction via the drill-and –practice instructional mode towards using computers as tools that can be incorporated into other learning activities to enhance problem solving and learning (Brown & Shirley, 2000). An example of the integrated technology is the NteQ which provides instructors with a ten-step approach of establishing problem-based instructional units that incorporate technology.
Learners use computers to collect, manipulate and present information that can be applied in solving academic problems. The emphasis at this particular point is the use of computers as a tool in the learning process. The shift of focus from using computers and other media to deliver instructional content to one of applying computers to develop integrated problem-solving tools is a means of emphasizing the development of instructional methods based on media. These methods have proved to be very effective in terms of assisting the learners meet their academic objectives (Brown & Shirley, 2000). Media Display Problems
Some features of media systems such as busy screen designs found in computer-based and multimedia learning conditions often resulting to learning problems. Many media designers come up with instructional presentations that have active animated figures, audios and visuals. Although many people appreciate the visual and aural entertainment, learners are frequently overloaded by these details hence reducing their learning. Screen designs that split visual and text-based demonstrations are heavily text loaded and they therefore destroy the learning process since they overwork the learners’ brains as they learn. Narrations are recommended as opposed to the large bodies of text (Brown & Shirley, 2000).
Television and media have both beneficial and destructive effects in students’ performance and achievement in schools depending on the method of application. Too much watching of the television has however been found to have harmful effects on learner’s performance especially if the emphasis is on entertainment rather than informative. Parents are advised to ensure that their kids watch constructive educational programs rather than the entertainment ones (Brown & Shirley, 2000). Introducing children to constructive television programs at early ages has been found to have the effect of the children using television as a compliment to books in their higher levels of education. Parents can therefore introduce their kids to constructive programs in an attempt to make television viewing important and meaningful in their academic work (Bryant & Zillmann,2006).
References Brown, J. W. & Shirley, N. B. (2000). Educational year book. California: R. R. Bowker. Bryant, J. & Zillmann, D. (2006). Perspectives on media effects. Michigan: l. Erlbaum Associates. Clark, R. E. (2001). Learning from media: arguments, analysis, and evidence. New York: IPA. International council for Educational Media. (2000). New York: International Council for Education Media. Kaufman, R. (2009). The Impact of Television & Video Entertainment on Student Achievement in Reading and Writing. Retrieved September 15, 2009 from http://www.heart-disease-bypass-surgery.com/data/articles/134.htm. Pecora, N. O. et al . (2007). Children and television. London: Routledge.