Television vs Parents: Which Carry Greatest Influence on Children?
Susan D. Witt is a professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at The University of Akron where her courses of study are among the topics of “Developmental Parent-Child Interaction“ and “Child Development.” She has numerous publications concerning gender bias influences on children; however her most controversial influence, in my opinion, is her depiction on the gender bias influence of Television. At the start of “The influence of television on children’s gender role socialization,” Witt attributes multiple factors of society to have an influence on what our children decide to internalize such as: Parents, Media, Schools, Family, and the Society they live in. Only, Witt focuses primarily on Television’s influence as she goes on in her writing.
According to Witt’s research cited in her publication, children tend to “spend more time watching Television than doing anything else except sleeping.” Children are exposed to hours of sex, crime, and violence driven scenes. She describes women being depicted as “passive, indecisive, and subordinate to men” and conversely, men are show to take more initiative, more of a problem solver, and also more powerful than their female counter parts. Witt then inserts a list on what the National Institute of Mental Health has determined gender bias in television to later strengthen her argument as she goes on to describe different cartoons and shows and how they portray gender to further perpetuate society’s bias.
Witt’s argument on the effects of Television in the media shows how much research has been done on the topic as she uses much citation throughout her article. Since Television first started reaching the medium of society, “educators, citizen groups, the clergy and other social organizations have attacked television for its unwholesome effects on children” (Spigel, 144). According to Spigel, television perpetuated the notion that women belong in the home or employed as nurturers and caregivers. Spigel then chooses to speak about Bart’s character in The Simpsons, but he never touches on the fact that Marge and Lisa are depicted as more intelligent than the male characters.
I think Witt should of incorporated more of what these production companies felt about their gender bias influence on children or whether they even feel they are responsible. Howard P. Chudacoff’s publication, “Children at Play,” does so more effectively as he summarizes the debate between companies and society’s feminist. Companies had a different outlook, that children choose to watch shows that were already perpetuated in their home and the society around them. The feminist however would disagree stating in Witt’s writing, “TV programs has the effect of creating artificial gender differences in children’s behavior. (Chudacoff 180-81)
Maybe the production companies are right. Maybe feminist should worry less about what is aired on television and concentrate more on what is perpetuated and taught at home. As a child, I saw everything from the good, the bad, and the ugly on television, but my mother made sure I knew right from wrong. She would watch programs with me and tell me, “that doesn’t really happen in real life” or even “you could do that if you wanted to.” The exposure did not hurt me, it helped me. It, along with parental commentating, gave me tons of examples of what was realistic and unrealistic in the world today. Do I believe it is worth the effort to raise awareness about what is on television? Not exactly, however I do believe we should raise social awareness for the actual people in society interacting daily with our youth.
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