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(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

Influence of Television on Children and Youth

Summary of research carried out: 
Influence of Television on Children and Youth

The purpose of my research was to determine whether television in Spain has any influence on the behaviour of children. For this purpose, I chose three State channels that cover the entire country. The three channels – TVE 1 and 2 (public channels), Telecinco and Antena 3 (private channels) – have the highest audiences. I chose the children’s schedule, namely the television time slot most viewed by children – from 5 p.m. (when they come home from school) to 9 p.m. This time slot is subject to child protection, and all television companies have signed an agreement to that effect. Throughout my research I observed that, despite that agreement, the companies often do not abide by its terms. It is peak viewing time and they are competing for viewers. In defending their stance, the channels argue that they broadcast to meet the viewers’ demand and that the question was merely one of supply and demand. On all the channels in that time slot news items feature prominently, with a great deal of information on violence, robberies, homicides, etc., on the one hand and, on the other, utterly scandalous news about the private lives of people in the public eye. I interviewed well-known news presenters and directors, Telecinco, TVE 1 and Antena 3. The three journalists agree that Spanish television is undergoing a transformation with the advent of private television companies.

They also acknowledge that politicians still wield influence and that television companies invest very little in producing educational programmes for children and young people because it does not pay. As a result, the companies behave as all other private enterprises bent on making money do. The main purpose of my work was to ascertain the assumption of much previous research on whether violence on television directly influences children’s behaviour and can cause aggressive or even violent behaviour.

My interview with a child psychologist working daily with children confirmed that human behaviour is influenced by several factors. The environment in which children grow up, that is the family environment, school, and their social environment and friends, is of the utmost importance to their development. The psychologist convinced me that television is only one, very small, factor in triggering violent behaviour by a child. In such cases, there have doubtlessly been previous problems that have gone undetected. I can thus confirm that, although television does influence children in that it sets an example to emulate (presenters, actors, cartoons, and so on), I rule out the likelihood that it can cause violent behaviour. The most important factor in a child’s behaviour is the environment in which he/she lives. Television is but one more factor. This was confirmed by another two psychologists who work with aggressive children and their parents. Direct surveys of children aged 7 to 11 years, too, yield no evidence that children imitate violent behaviour seen on television. Surveys of their parents have confirmed that the latter try to control content that their children see on television.

 

30 June 2008