In the early 1970s, studies reported that, since 1945, 99 percent of the homes in the United States had acquired at least one television set (Mander, 1978, p.24). Television has now become the leading vehicle for disseminating information to Americans. Although many people place little importance on television's implantation of the images in their brains, research has shown that humans slowly turn into whatever images they carry in their minds. The images they see on television are conveyed to their brains by light; and the proof that these images are ingrained in their brains is demonstrated by the fact that they often have vivid memories of the things which they see on television. For instance, many children recall seeing their first romantic kisses on television. And the images which children see on television becomes the mirror against which they later compare their own behavior. Some researchers now believe that people become what they see; in other words, they evolve into the images which they see on television. Author Carl Lowe writes, "It has now been established that children will imitate behavior they see on television
moreover it has also been established that they younger the child, the more likely he or she is to believe the commercials, to confuse them with programming fare" (Lowe, 1981, p. 118).
Also, if children view people kissing passionately on television or a young virgin girl being presented as a present to a much older man, such as in the movie Pretty Baby (when it was shown on television), those children may later emulate that behavior. Yet those young children may not actually be emotionally mature enough to handle the consequences of a sexual relationship. For example, if children view sexual promiscuity on television, they may be inclined to think that such behavior is not only normal, but also expected of them. So one problem with they portrayal of sexual acts on television is that many programs which are intended for adults are viewed by children; and yet the children do not understand that there may now be life-threatening repercussions; specifically, a teenager could contract AIDS by engaging in sexual activity.
One researcher noted that a child's television experience, or the amount of time a child spends watching television, has some effects on his or her brain development (Winn, 1977, p. 46). Thus, the subject of sex and television and its potential effect on children has been a source of great controversy. Despite outcries from parents, both network and cable television stations continue to carry programming which depicts sexual and sexually violent acts. Author Win sets forth one theory: all the hours that disturbed children spend involved in a television experience dull the boundaries between the real and the unreal (Winn, 1977, p. 74). She thinks that the act of watching television requires viewing projections of human images and the illusion of human feelings while requiring no human response from the viewer, and thus television encourages the viewer to detach from his or her acts-including antisocial acts. Winn believes that the problem is not that children learn about sex by watching television but that viewing explicit or violent acts on television conditions children to deal with people as if they were on television screen (Winn, 1977, pp.73-74). Predictably, the effects of too much sex on television have appeared in studies of juvenile offenders. While poverty and family pathology did not appear for the first time in American society in the 1950s through 1970s, a frightening new type of juvenile criminal did. These young criminals most often came from poverty, neglect, scholastic failure, degradation, broken families, "and heavy television viewing" (Winn, 1977, p. 73). Children had begun committing serious acts, like murder and rape. The common factor characterizing this new breed of "kids who kill" was complete absence of normal feeling such as guilt...
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Ingrassia, Michele. (1994, March). Going one step ogle the line? Newsweek 14: p. 66.
Lowe, Carl. (1981). Television and American culture. New York: H. W. Wilson Company.
Mander, Jerry. (1978). Four arguments for the elimination of television. New York: William Morrow.
Monaco, James. (1979, Winter). The TV plexus. Sight and Sound Winter: p. 19.
Rosen, Hanna. (1993, December 13). The producers: Congress fights TV violence. New Republic: pp.12-14.
Roman, James. (1980, Sept. 2). Mass media. USA Today: pp. 62-64.
Winn, Marie. (1977). The plug-in drug: Television, children, and the family. New York: Viking Press.
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