PSY 101 -The Media & It’s Effect on The Behavior of Children…

The topic of the media and its effect on the behavior of children is one that has garnered considerable attention and debate in recent years. With the proliferation of media platforms and the increasing accessibility of screens, the influence of media on children’s behavior has become a matter of concern for many parents, educators, and researchers. This paper aims to delve into this issue by exploring the various ways in which media exposure can shape children’s behavior, as well as discussing the potential consequences of these influences.

Before delving into the empirical research on the effects of media on children’s behavior, it is essential to establish a conceptual and theoretical framework for understanding this relationship. One prominent theoretical perspective that has gained traction in the field of media psychology is social learning theory. Developed by Albert Bandura, social learning theory posits that individuals learn behaviors by observing and imitating the actions of others (Bandura, 1977). Applied to the realm of media, this theory suggests that children can acquire and emulate behaviors portrayed in media content, such as aggression or prosocial behavior.

Further, it is crucial to recognize the key players in the media landscape that may influence children’s behavior. These include television, movies, video games, and digital media platforms such as social media and websites. Each of these forms of media presents unique characteristics that may impact children differently. For instance, television is a longstanding medium known for its passive consumption and potential for exposure to violent content, while video games offer an interactive experience that may heighten the player’s immersion in the content (Strasburger & Wilson, 2002).

Examining the research on television, numerous studies have explored the relationship between media exposure and aggression in children. The famous Bobo doll experiment conducted by Bandura et al. (1963) demonstrated that children who observed aggressive behavior by an adult model were more likely to imitate those behaviors themselves. This study, along with subsequent research, has provided evidence for the social learning theory and its application to media influences. The cultivation theory, developed by George Gerbner, is another theoretical framework that explains how long-term media exposure can shape individuals’ beliefs and values (Gerbner, 1976). When it comes to media and aggression, cultivation theory posits that exposure to violent media content can lead to the acceptance of violence as a normative behavior, subsequently increasing aggressive tendencies in individuals.

In addition to aggression, media exposure has also been linked to other behavioral outcomes in children. For example, the media’s portrayal of body image and beauty standards has been found to influence body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors among young girls (Field et al., 2008). Research has also demonstrated that media consumption can impact children’s academic performance, as multitasking between media and studying has been associated with reduced cognitive functioning (Rosen et al., 2013). These findings highlight the wide range of behavioral effects that media exposure can have on children.

It is important to note that while there is significant evidence supporting the influence of media on children’s behavior, the effects are not deterministic, and individual differences play a role in shaping the impact. Factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and parental mediation can mediate the relationship between media exposure and behavior (Valkenburg et al., 2005). Moreover, the content of the media itself can vary widely, with some programs and games designed to promote educational and prosocial behaviors in children. Therefore, the extent to which media influences children’s behavior should be understood within the context of these individual and media-related factors.

In conclusion, the media has a profound potential to shape the behavior of children. Through theoretical lenses such as social learning theory and cultivation theory, research has uncovered evidence of the influence of media on aggression, body image, academic performance, and other behavioral outcomes. However, it is crucial to recognize that individual and media-related factors can mediate the relationship between media exposure and behavior. Ultimately, understanding the impact of media on children’s behavior requires a comprehensive examination of these various factors to inform both parents and educators in promoting healthy media consumption habits for children.