THE INFLUENCE OF THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA ON CHILDREN’S SOCIALIZATION: A STUDY OF ENUGU METROPOLIS

THE INFLUENCE OF THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA ON CHILDREN’S SOCIALIZATION: A STUDY OF ENUGU METROPOLIS

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Early childhood was also a time children become aware of television and movie characters. Throughout history, familiar characters have appealed to children from an early age. The expansion of children’s media in recent years through sources such as cable TV and video games has greatly increased the number and variety of such characters and their related toys. The electronic media are designed to expand children’s knowledge of society and the larger world, develop creativity, encourage problem solving, role-playing, socialization, and improve literacy and vocabulary.

The entire study of mass communication was based on the assumption that the media have significant effects, yet there was little agreement on the nature and extent of these assumed effects, McQuail (2007:456). This uncertainty was more surprising since everyday experience provides countless examples of influence. For example, we dress for the weather as forecast, buy something because of an advert, go to a film mentioned in a newspaper, react to media news, films, music etc. There are many cases of negative media publicity for instance food contamination leading to significant changes in food consumption behaviour, acts of violence or suicide appear to be copied or stimulated by media portrayals. McQuail further asserts that our minds are full of media derived

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information and impressions as we live in a world saturated by media sounds and images. Few people cannot think of some personal instance of gaining significant information or of forming an opinion because of the media.

According to Wimmer and Dominick (2003:394) the development of the social impact of the mass media was evident as far back as the 1920’s when many critics charged that motion pictures had a negative influence on children. In 1928 the Motion picture Research Council, with support from the Payne fund a private Philanthropic Organization sponsored a series of thirteen studies on the movies’ influence on children. After examination of film content, information gain, attitude change and influence on behaviour, it was concluded that the movies were potent sources of information, attitudes and behaviour for children.

In the early 1950’s another medium, the comic book was chastised for it’s alleged harmful effects. John Klapper (1960) cited in Wimmer and Domnick (2003:394) summarized what was known about the social impact of mass communication. In contrast to many researchers, Klapper downplayed the potential harmful effects of the media. He concluded that the media most often reinforced an individual’s existing attitudes and predispositions.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s concern over the antisocial impact of the media shifted to television. Experiments on college campuses by Bandura and Berkowitz in Comstock and Paik

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(1991:97) showed that aggressive behaviour could be learned by viewing violent media content and that a stimulation effect was more probable than a cathartic effect. Subcommittees examined possible links between viewing violence on television and juvenile delinquency and in 1965 one subcommittee concluded that televised crime and violence were related to antisocial behaviours among juvenile viewers.

The early 1970’s saw extensive research on the social effects of the mass media. Three years after the publication of the Eisenhower Commission report came the release of a multi-volume report sponsored by the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory committee on television and social Behaviour. The committee summarized it’s research evidence:

There is a convergence of fairly substantial evidence on short run causation of aggression among children by viewing violence and the much less certain evidence from field studies that violence viewing precedes some long-run manifestation of aggressive behaviour. Wimmer and Dominick (2003:394)

The committee tempered this conclusion by noting that any sequence by which viewing television violence causes aggressive behaviour is most likely applicable only to some children who are predisposed in that direction.

Gamson and Modigliani (1989) cited in McQuail (2007:461) work on media texts, audiences and also media organizations in the late 1970’s brought about a new approach to media effect which can

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best be termed “social constructivist”. This involves a view of media as having their most significant effects by constructing meanings.

In today’s society, electronic media are thoroughly integrated into the fabric of life with television, movies, video, music, videogames central to both work and play. Recent studies indicate that young children in Nigeria and in Enugu which is the limited area of this work use a wide variety of screen media. The media are increasingly part of children’s environment as television programmes are being made for infants, toddlers and teenagers.

On the positive bide of the ledger, there is evidence that thoughtfully designed TV used at the appropriate developmental stage can be educational. At the same time, the electronic media can contribute to aggressive behaviour, anxiety and obesity in children.

The electronic media plays important role in socialization through learning which it does by providing important sources of information. It also plays an important role in the transmission of attitudes, perception and beliefs.

Dominick (2002:484) highlights specifically that television was an influential force when the following factors are operative:

i. The same ideas, people or behaviours recur consistently from programme to programme and are presented in a stereotyped manner.

ii. A child was heavily exposed to TV content

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iii. A child has limited interaction with parents and other socializing agents and lacks an alternative set of beliefs to serve as a standard against which to assess media portrayals.

The need to develop scientifically based practical answers to important questions about media effects on the physical, mental and social health of children was now greater than ever.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The electronic media air programmes for children’s consumption to fulfill their social responsibility theory. The electronic media pose a problem of showing tricks and exaggeration which creates a false impression on the minds of the young ones. They do not enable children to make concrete decisions for themselves concerning their academics, total well being and future because what they get from the electronic media usually leads them to confusion and despair.

This work also looked at why the electronic media atimes warrants children’s unfriendly and friendly behaviour towards their friends, siblings and people around them.

It also finds out if a child’s academic performance is being affected too when exposed to the electronic media.

1.3 OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

This work finds out the following:

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1. To find out if the electronic media affects the socialization process of children residing in Enugu.

2. To ascertain whether children in Enugu metropolis derive gratification from exposure to the electronic media.

3. To find out if the media serve as a good agent of socialization.

4. To find out why different children who are exposed to the electronic media do not receive the same measure of effect.

5. To ascertain whether children’s preference over a particular thing was as a result of exposure to the electronic media.

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The problem which the electronic media poses affects virtually every child directly or indirectly, so the significance of this work cannot be ignored in that it will help the electronic media practitioners know the extent of the effects of their programme content on the social development of a child.

This work was to advance the frontier of knowledge in the field of mass communication as well as serve as a repository of knowledge and also contribute to available literature in the field of mass communication. Issues pertaining to media effects on children have become a serious matter which demands attention by all and so this work serves as a reference material, to interpret and recommend appropriate actions.

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1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:-

1. Does the electronic media have any influence on the lives of children?

2. To what extent was this influence?

3. How helpful was the electronic media in the socialization process of a child?

4. To what extent has this help been?

1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Ohaja (2003:63) posits that in every discipline, a body of theories provides the explanation for observable phenomena in that field.

The better the theory, the more adequately it can explain the phenomena under consideration and the more facts it can incorporate in a meaningful structure of ever-generalizability, Osuala (2003:16). He went further to say that a theory must be stated precisely and clearly if it was to serve as an adequate guide to research.

In this study, the researcher adopted the social learning theory and the individual differences theory. The social learning theory also known as modeling theory was based on the assumption that people learn how to behave by observing others including those portrayed in the mass media. Folarin (2002:89)

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asserts that children tend to learn aggression from the mass media and to model their behaviour on that of the dramatis personae. Social modeling was considered an important part of the process of socialization.

LaRose (2004:374) explains that the rewards which television characters receives for their antisocial behaviour – including not just the loot from their robberies but also their very appearance on a glamorous medium such as television encourages imitation. This theory developed from many studies including the Payne fund studies and the surgeon general’s reports. It was introduced to the general public through the experiments of Albert Bandura in 1963.

The individual difference theory as the name suggests looks at how media users with different characteristics are affected in different ways by the mass media.

According to Rodman (2006:458) some types of media users are more susceptible to some types of media messages than others are. Citing example that a viewer with a high level of education tends to be more susceptible to a message that includes logical appeals than would a viewer with a low level of education.

1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The issue of media effect on children is a broad and controversial topic but specifically, this work was only limited to the Electronic media and Enugu metropolis shall serve as the base area

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in the generation of data for the purpose of investigating into the subject under study.

1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS

Under this subheading, a researcher operationalises the key concepts and variables in his research. He states clearly what they mean in the context of his study which may be different from what they mean in another context, Ohaja (2003:68).

Socialization – This means how children relate with people in the society, the kind of attitudes and mannerisms they exhibit, in order words their behavioural pattern.

Electronic Media – Media which is not the print and which utilizes electronic or electromechanical energy.

Children – Children are individuals who are not more than 18 years of age. This was also in line with the UN’s definition adopted on 20th Nov 1989 in the convention on the rights of the child.

Influence - This includes both the beneficial and harmful derivation from a thing.

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REFERENCES

Comstock, G. and Paik, H. (1991). Television and the American child. New York: Academic Press.

Dominick, J. R. (2002). The Dynamics of Mass Communication Media in the Digital Age, (7th ed). New York: McGraw Hill.

Folarin, B. (2002). Theories of Mass Communication. Abeokuta: Link Publications.

LaRose, S. (2004). Media Now, (4th ed). USA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning Publishers.

McQuail, D. (2005). Mass Communication Theory. Britain: Alden Press.

Ohaja, E. U. (2003). Mass Communication Research and Project Report Writing. Lagos: John Letterman Ltd.

Osuala, E. C. (2003). Introduction to Research Methodology. Onitsha: African – FEP Publishers Ltd.

Rodman, G. (2006). Mass Media in a changing World: History, Industry, Controversy. New York: McGraw Hill.

Wimmer. R. D and Dominick, J. R. (2003). Mass Media Research, an introduction, (7th ed). Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

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