The aim of this paper is to analyze psychological impact of television. This paper claims that television has mostly negative impact on our lives. Although there might be some advantages of television, we should spend less time in front of it for several reasons: television is addictive, watching television has a negative influence on our behavior, television negatively influences children’s socialization, and watching television undermines important aspects of family.
First, it must be said that television is rather addictive. The average American “spends about 4 hours a day watching television”( Condry 31), with older adults watching the most of any age group; even teenagers, who watch the least amount of television, still spend an average of nearly 24 hours a week in front of the TV set (Condry 31). The term “television addiction”, according to Mcilwraith “first appeared in the popular press bolstered only by anecdotal evidence, but it gained widespread acceptance among parents, educators, and journalists” (371). Television consumes large amounts of people time. Addicted people watch TV longer and usually more often than they wanted and their efforts to cut down their TV watching are often unsuccessful. According to Mcilwraith, people very often gave up important activities (social, family, or occupational) just to watch television. television addiction is defined as “heavy television watching that is subjectively experienced as being to some extent involuntary, displacing more productive activities, and difficult to stop or curtail” (371).
Condry states that it is unclear the extent to which individual’s “use” television, like a drug, to change their affective state (114). People certainly claim this to be the case when asked about why they watch television. Most people say they use television for “escape” and “relaxation.” They use television to “unwind,” and that it the reason why watching television is rather addictive (Condry 114).
This ability to use television for one’s own purposes, as an unwinder, for example, raises another important series of questions about the degree of choice available to most viewers. Individuals with cable, or better yet, with a video recorder, should be more able to use television as an “unwinder” because they have a wider selection of material to choose from. Each person knows him or herself better than any other, we know what “turns us on” and what might best “unwind” us. No one has studied it yet, but those with more choice should be better able to accomplish this than those without (Condry 115).
Second, watching television has a negative impact on our behavior. Television influences human behavior because there are “mechanisms whereby the content of television which can have an effect on what we do and on how we act” (Condry 120). According to Condry:
Part of television’s influence comes about because of how we learn (by observation and imitation), because of how we respond to certain kinds of story material (arousal/desensitization), and because of the structure of our inhibitions and the way television provides the kind of stimulation necessary to release them (121).
Condry calls these behavioral mechanisms, because for the most part the influence was shown on some activity (120).
Television also influences what we believe and think about the world, and it does so, again, because of our make-up, our psychology. Just as the behavioral effects have behavioral mechanisms, the cognitive effects of television have cognitive mechanisms based on the structure of attitudes, beliefs, and judgments and on the way in which these cognitive structures are acquired (Condry 120).
A series of studies provide evidence for a small but significant influence of television’s content on attitudes and beliefs about the real world. Heavy viewers exposed to persistent displays of violence and mayhem on television drama come to believe that the real world incidence of such violence is higher than do light viewers of the same age, sex, education, and social class. Apparently the “facts” of the world of television tend to slip into the belief and value systems of individuals who are heavy consumers of it (Condry 123).
Violence laden television not only cultivates aggressive tendencies in a minority but, perhaps more importantly, also generates a pervasive and exaggerated sense of danger and mistrust. Heavy viewers revealed a significantly higher sense of personal risk and suspicion than did light viewers in the same demographic groups who were exposed to the same real risks of life (Condry 123).
Third, watching television affects greatly the process of children’s socialization. Socialization is “the process of learning the attitudes, values, and behavior patterns of a given society or group in order to function effectively within it” (Hoffner, Levine, and Toohey). The aim of socialization is to prepare children for different social roles, including occupational role. We know that children can imitate behavior greatly. Evra notes that “even infants as young as 14 months have demonstrated significant and deferred imitation of televised models”(79). One of the most important forces in young people’s lives is television, because it “provides many additional salient and attractive role models” (Hoffner, Levine, and Toohey 282). There is much evidence, which shows that young people unconsciously imitate television characters, they learn from the values, beliefs, and behaviors (Hoffner, Levine, and Toohey 282). Television shows numerous law firms, hospitals, restaurants, businesses, and depicts people engaged in various work-related activities. Nevertheless, “many traditional occupations, and much of what typically takes place during a workday, are not exciting or dramatic enough to be depicted on programs designed primarily to entertain” (Hoffner, Levine, and Toohey 283).
Moreover, according to Hoffner, Levine, and Toohey:
television often transmits an inaccurate, stereotypic image of how people behave and communicate in various occupations, and portrays women and ethnic minorities in less glamorous or prestigious occupational roles than white males Television also over-represents law- enforcement and professional positions while under-representing managerial, labor, and service jobs (283).
The context for television viewing is a very significant component in children’s television experience. Those children who receive parental comment, input, and supplementary information and interaction have a very different experience of television viewing than those who view alone or with less involved parents. Such differences in the viewing context play an important role in determining the strength and nature of television’s impact. Families differ in their attitudes toward, and in their use of, television; these differences in turn influence children’s understanding and attitudes about the content and its impact on them. Coviewing with siblings and peers can also affect a child’s behavioral response to television content.
Fourth, television has often been criticized for undermining important aspects of family life by displacing other important family activities (Evra 150). It is interesting to point out that “since its development as a commercial vehicle, families have come to accept television as a valuable member of the family” (Evra 150). Television viewing with family members is common. Television’s danger lies not so much in the behavior it produces as in the behavior it prevents, such as family talks, games, arguments, and other interactions. Despite the fact that families still do special things together, television diminishes their ordinary daily life together, because it is a regular, scheduled, and rather mechanized daily activity (Evra 151). Poor family communication affects greatly overall family health. Problems and conflicts are caused by the family communication dysfunction. It is necessary to spend time together, having a family meal and turning off the TV can create more opportunities to talk.
However, because there is TV, children and parents are distracted from talking, and in such a way suffer communication. Television influences various spheres of family life “leisure relations, aesthetic interests and values, consumer behavior patterns, parent-child attitudes and socialization practices” (Cohen 103). Television is an accepted, approved and readily accessible source of information, and it “both creates and reinforces models of social behavior (style of dress, idiomatic language, attitudes toward sexuality and gender, parent behavior) that define not only individual behavior, but also family behavior” (Cohen104
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