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Television Commercials: the Effects of Television Commercials to Children Under the Age of 13

By rodrigoaescobar Jan 08, 2011 3700 Words
The television has been around for more than 70 years since its first publication on January 1926 by John Logie Baird who first demonstrated how a television works (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006). This small invention turned to be something that needed to be studied on 20 years later it was first publicized.

It was also on the researches about the television wherein humankind was able to find out that it poses a threat to the society and mainly on the younger generation. To an adult, the television mainly serves as a medium to kill the boredom and adults tend to regulate themselves in watching television. Oftentimes, they know what to watch and what to do not watch. However, it is a different story when it comes to children whenever they watch television.

Children cling to the television to the extent that it becomes one of their medium to learning and since children are easily influenced, the television does a good job in manipulating the mindset and attitudes of the children that may affect their growth and development as they grow up.

Researchers, psychologists and most of the governments in the world are finding out ways on how to make the television suitable for children in all programs. However, this possibility seems to be futile to be accomplished since most of the time, children has their own freedom in the television and that they spend more hours watching compared to adults.

The History, Image and Role to the Society of the Television
Schneider Cy (1987) stated that the modern era of television started in 1955 when Walt Disney first aired “The Mickey Mouse Club” that targeted children as their main viewers. This was the first network show that aired one hour a day and five days a week. It was often aired at the time when children were home alone and in control of the television. It is during these hours when the parents are too busy with their work and that the children can have their own time in front of the television (Cy, 1987, p. 12-14). Broadcast historians made it clear that television influence started out even before 1955. In the years between 1947 and 1955, the television was remembered to have shows that were entertaining and wholesome in comparison to the television today. The role of the television today to children is a medium of entertainment. This is also true for the adults since it is their way of relieving the stress that they receive. Furthermore, the television to adults acts as a provider of information in both local and foreign news. To children, television acts as an educator although education can be achieved by social processes, the fact that television is very accessible makes it as influential as real live people. “Television once served as an agent of social control. But it has now become an agent of social change. It now fosters suspicions of traditional mores and institutions . . . and is apt to cast a jaundiced eye on the very standards the medium embraced so enthusiastically a mere generation ago.” (Robert Richter, Linda Richter and Stanley Rothman, 1996, p. 259)

The household and social uses of the television can be classified into two: the structural and the relational use. When we say structural use, we are referring to the use of the television as a medium for entertainment and relief for boredom and stress. An example of this would be when a person is left alone in the house and is tasked to do chores, the television acts as a medium to add up to the noise relieving the silence that the person experiences. When we say relational use, the television is used to a certain degree with the purpose of communication among colleagues and family members. It is in this classification wherein the television becomes a means for interaction between two or more individuals. It is clearly shown in this classification that people are moved in accordance to what they see on television. An example of this would be when a father lectures his children based on what he came to realize after watching a certain television show. (Lemish, 2007, p. 17-20)

In general, one of the most important purposes of television is that to serve as the means for information. Thus, its role to the society is very important in informing the viewers of what is happening around them both in local and foreign news. In addition, the television is also used as a means of marketing by the use of advertisements and in updating the people of what are the latest trends and innovations. Unlike the other means of information such as the newspaper and radio, the television offers the people a visual representation of a certain commodity that is being advertised. This manipulates them even more since they see what they are capable of buying thus making the advertisement even more effective than that of the advertisement offered by the newspaper or the radio. This concept does not only go for adults but goes as well for children. (Lemish, 2007, p. 17-21)what film The Children

Children can pay very close attention to television for long periods. It has always been mesmerizing from the eyes of children even to those who are believed to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006, p. 21-22).

According to Christakis and Zimmerman (2006) in their book The Elephant in the Living Room, “For many children, television is a big part of their world from a very young age. Children under the age of 3 are awake for only 10-12 hours per day. If they watch 2 to 3 hours of television during that time, 20 to 30 percent of their waking hours are spent in from of a screen… As a child watches television at an early age, his brain is being conditioned to take advantage of the particular kind of stimulus that television affords.” (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006, p. 26). Children under the age of 13 are perceived to be completely different from adults. They respond and act differently compared to adults. William White (1965), a professor of Psychology at the Rutgers University, and a consultant and research director for advertising agencies pointed out ten qualities of children that anyone who studies children must know. The following are four relevant points from the ten qualities that William White (1965) has pointed out in order to help individuals to understand and study children better: 1. Children find abstract concepts hard to understand.

2. Children have trouble extracting the essence from a verbal statement. 3. Children, especially younger ones, cannot separate their reactions to the product advertised and the advertisement itself that is found on TV. 4. Because children can remember a television commercial word for word or repeat slogans and jungles, one should not assume that they understand the meaning. (White, 1965) The mindset of children is different from ordinary individuals since their mentality is not yet fully developed or their mindset is completely distinct due to the generation gap between adults, teenagers and children alike. Children under the age of 13 are very easy to manipulate since they have very few life experiences thus maximizing the use of television for their learning. The media socializes and communicates with them with the great use of the television (Perse, 2001, p. 164-171). According to the Nielsen Media Research (1998), young children from the ages two to eleven watch television for about 22 hours per week and these research findings on children are relatively high compared to the number of hours that adults and teenagers watch television. There are many other ways of socialization such as the family, church, school and friends but media and especially the television is always readily available. The socializing capabilities of media and the television makes people learn from what they see. This becomes unquestionably true for children since they are the ones who are most affected on this to the point that they want to imitate whatever they see on TV (Perse, 2001, p. 164-171). Children who are one to five years old are classified as pre-schoolers. Schneider Cy (1987) pointed out some of their characteristics and that most of them cannot read yet since they are still in the process of learning on how to love. Moreover, they rely completely on their parents and educators which in the same way acts as their second parent. In addition to that, children in this age are highly stimulated by television and they are capable of watching it for hours regardless of the fact that they do not understand everything that they see and that they tend to rely more on visual representations of elements that are found on television and that watching television programs that are too long becomes difficult for the child to understand it. To illustrate, the reason why humorous cartoon shows are short is because children fails to compensate a certain TV program if it is too long. (Cy, 1987, p. 85) The shift of mentality of the children that are between the ages six and nine are not different from the mentality that they used to have when they were in the pre-schooloer stage. According to Schneider Cy (1987), the children of this age are classified to watch television very often and that they spend the longest time in watching the television in comparison with the other age groups. It is also in these ages wherein a child realizes that he is no longer a baby. Consequently, the child starts to make decisions of his own and starts to gain maturity thus preparing him for the teenage years. (Cy, 1987, p. 85-86) The child in his pre-teen stage has a completely different mindset from the mindset that he started out with during his pre-schooler years. In these ages, the child already has a mind of his own. Moreover, it is also in this stage wherein the influence of their parents starts to decline and the child starts to recognize other adult figures as an influence aside from their parents such as celebrities and other relatives that they find interesting. (Cy, 1987, p. 86) According to Elizabeth M. Perse (2001), “Children adopt the role models of the media. They imitate the way television characters dress and do their hair; they want lunch boxes and Halloween costumes emblazoned with their favorite television characters. Coupled with other societal institutions, there is a good deal of concern about television’s potential negative effects in children’s knowledge about society.” (Perse, 2001, p. 165). As what Perse (2001) would put it, the television is capable of influencing the children in the way they act and respond to situations. (Perse, 2001, p. 164-171), this gives justice to the fact that the parents play a big role in supervising their children in watching television. The Role of the Parents to their Children

The roles of the parents are very vital to the growth and development of the child. Their duties over their children are set to be valid until the child is already able to leave their home and live by himself. What is equally important is the fact that the parents are to take care of their children starting from the infant years. However, some parents forget the important role that they have on their children and tend to leave them with a babysitter or a hired maid tasked to take care of their child. In this case, the child no longer receives the proper discipline from a parent. Moreover, the child acquires supremacy over his baby sitter, which makes the child more prone in being influenced by watching television. (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006)

Dimitri A. Christakis and Frederick J. Zimmerman (2006) explained how early the child is influenced by the television. According to them, “A typical child born today will probably watch videos first, starting as early as 4 to 6 months old, often sitting in a car safety seat if she is unable to sit on her own. She will quickly graduate to a bewildering array if shows laden with stressful cartoon violence and commercialism, which she may start watching as early as 9 months old.” (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006, p. 5).

Parents are greatly involved in the television viewing of their children. It is one of their duties as parents and probably one of the qualities of a parent that a person must have in order to be called a good parent. (Lemish, 2007, p. 23).

According to dafna Lemish (2007), the types of involvement of a parent concerning the television watching of their children can be classified into three levels. “First, is the level of “awareness and co-viewing:” the degree to which parents are around during viewing, are familiar with the content of programs their children are viewing, offer their children role models of viewing habits, and even view with them. Second is the level of “supervision,” also termed “restrictive meditation,” which relates to the degree to which parents supervise and restrict the amount of television viewing of their children, viewing times and viewing content, and use viewing as forms of reward or punishment; and to what degree do they monitor secondary viewing behaviors (e.g., dong homework or eating while viewing)? Finally, “instructive mediation” level relates to the degree to which the parents mediate between their children and the television content viewed – through conversation, explanation, value judgments, processing of emotions, understanding information, application of learning, critical evaluation and the like.” (Lemish, 2007, p. 23).

These three types of involvement of the parents – awareness, supervision, and instructive mediation – sometimes go against with the different attitudes of the parents. Opinions from different parents vary. Some may agree to let their children watch what they want and some may think that the television can destroy the life of their children. Others may see the television as a medium for entertainment, relaxation and stress-reliever. In addition to that, some parents would consider the television as a form of help for the education of the children since for the past few decades, educational television programs has been rampant worldwide. (Lemish, 2007, p. 24).

Knowing how early the influence of television starts and its bad effects on the children makes us focus on the problem. Elizabeth M. Perse (2001) made it clear that children are very easy to manipulate and make them believe on what they see. This is also one of the reasons of why advertisers of children’s product targets children in a visual manner since most children would care less on advertisements that require comprehensions. (Perse, 2001)

In spite of these deficiencies from the parents, some have taken action in providing guidance to their children whenever they watch television. Most families worldwide have these set of rules and the elders of the household that tends to be the parents set out policies in their household that everybody must follow. One of these rules may contain things like, “no television beyond 10 pm” or “no watching of television on a weekday”. (Lemish, 2007, p. 22-26)

Despite the presence of these household rules, children tend not to follow them together with the same people who implement these rules. The reality of this is that there is a big possibility that the parents themselves are the ones breaking these rules for their children. These are the instances wherein the whole family is to watch a certain television program together. For instance, whenever the parents decide for their children that they should watch this certain television program together with them perhaps a favorite family show or a live telecast of a national event. (Lemish, 2007, p. 22-23).

It is always a desirable activity for the parents if they watch television together with their children. It is in these parent-guiding activities wherein the parents get to supervise their children of the programs they watch on television. It becomes their job to make their children understand the content of a certain television program and explain it to them in detail so as the child may understand and not misinterpret the message. Furthermore, it is also their job as parents to prevent their children from watching programs that may be threatening to their learning and development. The subtle act of trusting children at this age and letting them watch television at their own privacy goes against the activity of watching television with them. (Lemish, 2007, p. 24). The Negative effects of Television to Children

The study of the United States Surgeon General’s Office (1969) states that all negative effects of the television to children clearly depend on the type of programs thay they watch. This study of the Surgeon General was later criticized and studied by other sociologists and psychologists and later on by other scientists from different fields. They have found out three different possibilities regarding the link between television and violence. (Cy, 1987, p. 78-82). * Television has no significant relationship to aggressive behavior. * Television reduces aggressive behavior.

* Television causes aggressive behavior. (Cy, 1987, p. 78-82). Violence is not the only thing that needs to be given concern regarding the television’s influence on children. Latest research shows that that have found out new other ways where television influences children. Here are some of the thesis statements of research findings about the negative influence of television on children: * Television is a passive medium; children passively absorb the information they get from television – violence, sex, commercials, etc. * Television viewing decreases creativity in children.

* Television viewing is an addictive behavior. (Cy, 1987) The Positive Effects of Television to Children
Dimitri Christakis and Frederick Zimmerman (2006) stated out some tips on how to make television work in the positive way for children. The parents play a vital role for children concerning television. The best thing that a parent can do to assure that their child is watching the proper programs is to supervise them while they are watching. In these ways of securing a child’s welfare from television, a certain parent can help make use of the television for the benefit. (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006, p. 94-95)

For children ages 3-5, a parent must make them avoid programs that are somehow related to violence. Oftentimes, news programs can be good at depicting violence but although news channels can be very informative, it would be best not to make children watch these shows in the possibility of absorbing information regarding violence (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006). Children under the age of 13 are very much likely to watch cartoons and animations. The target of these kinds of television programs are children since they are the only ones who seem to be entertained by the type of comic and humor that cartoons and animations give. However, there are some cartoons that depict violence that must be avoided by the parents for their children to watch. It would be best to make them watch channels that are informative in a way that would contribute to the learning of the child. (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006). Once the child reaches the age of 5-10, they become more mature that they were compared to when they were in pre-schooling stage. In this stage, the child is now able to convey his feelings and insights. He can already cite what is wrong and what is correct. However, it would still be best if a parent could watch over her child. (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006). For children 11 years old and up, they are now pre-entering adolescent stage wherein they become more emotional than they were before. This given fact of growing up still does not exclude the parent from watching over the shoulder of her child. They can now watch horror and action movies but it would be best if the certain child can watch it with the complete supervision of the parents. (Christakis and Zimmerman, 2006).

Conclusion and Summary
The television has everything. Moreover, it contains different things vital for the human person. It is capable of altering the minds of individuals and on the same way, it is capable of making a person learn. The television can be used in two ways: the positive and the negative way. The positive way of using the television is when a person makes use of it with the intent to learn something new since the television may also be a source of knowledge that may come in helpful for the person. The negative way of using the television is when a person watches a television program and then tends to be manipulated with what he watched. The negative way is oftentimes true for the youth but it is even more true for the children under the age of 13 since teenagers already have their own mindset and attitudes towards things and that their level of maturity is different from that of the children under 13.

Stiftung, Friedrich Ebert. A Handbook for Scriptwriters of Adult Education Broadcasters. New York: Bonn, 1973. Fidler, Roger. Mediamorphosis: Understanding the New Media. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 1997 Perse, Elizabeth M. Media Effects and Society. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2001. Gordon, David A. and Kittross, Michael. Controversies in Media Ethics. New York: Longman, 1999. Campbell, Richard. Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Media. New York: St. Martin’s Press: 1998. Baird, Robert M., Loges, William E. and Rosenbaum, Stuart E. The Media and Morality. New York: Prometheus Burks, 1999. Gunter, Barrie G., McAleer, Jill M. and Lembish, Dafna. Children and Television. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publications, 2007. Dafna, Lemish. Children and Television: A Global Perspective. London: Routledge, 2007. Luke, Carmen. Television and Your Child: A Guide for Concerned Parents. Toronto: Kagan and Woo Limited, 1998. Unnikrishnan, Namita. The Impact of Television Advertising on Children. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1996. Sy, Schneider. Children’s Television. Illinois: NTC Business Books, 1987. Ellis, John. Seeing Things: Television in the World of Uncertainty. London: I.P. Tauris Publishers, 2000. TV Zombie. The History of Television. Retrieved September 23, 2009 from

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