Children & Television: Images in a Changing Sociocultural World

Books

Gordon L. Berry & Joy Keiko Asamen

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Television and the Developing Child in a Multimedia World

    Part II: Television and the Development of a Child's Worldview

    Part III: Television and the Development of a Child's Understanding of Diverse Populations

    Part IV: Future Perspectives on Programs for Children

  • Dedication

    To Arthur Nadel

    For his development of prosocial programs for children, wise guidance to friends, and willingness to share his creative talents with others.

    Copyright

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    Preface

    Children today live in a multimedia world. It is a world composed of media forms that are now part of the total culture in which a child is born, grows, and develops into an adult. It is also a world in which the United States is well on its way to being truly universal in its cultural diversity. Against the backdrop of the media explosion and changing cultural landscape in the country, television and other electronic media are becoming more important than ever as a type of noncertificated teacher of children.

    Television programs with their images, portrayals, and creative story telling are more than passive entertainment. Whenever television is on in the home, it teaches the young viewers something about themselves as well as about individuals and groups who are different. The social, psychological, and educational constructs inherent in the teaching and learning processes of television, and how developing children learn from them are the foci of this book.

    In this book we approach these psychosocial and sociocultural constructs of television and children from a multidisciplinary perspective. Although the general framework of the content is research based, we also present concepts related to general practices that students, researchers, teachers, public interest organizations, broadcasters, and other groups can utilize to better understand the role of this medium in the life of the child.

    As senior editor, I would like to express my special thanks to Dr. William (Bill) Cosby, that master teacher, and Lou Scheimer, a friend and mentor, for inviting me years ago to work with them on a television program for children known as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. This program stimulated my research in the field of media and social behavior, and this book is a continuation of that early work. In addition, there have been a number of broadcasters, such as Judy Price, with whom I have planned and debated the issues associated with prosocial programs for children that have provided me the opportunity to apply the research related to human behavior to the real world of television programming. As always, Juanita Berry deserves special thanks for her support during the development of this project.

    As the co-editor, I wish to acknowledge the continued support of my parents, Keigi and Kiyo Asamen.

    Both editors want to thank Cathy Dawson, Sarah Kincaid, and Grace Hong in the Communications Processing Center of the Graduate School of Education for their patience in the preparation of the manuscript. Equally important, we have appreciated the assistance received from the people at Sage Publications.

    GordonL.Berry
    JoyKeikoAsamen
  • Epilogue: What Children Learn from Television and how they Learn it

    JoyKeikoAsamen

    A particularly powerful force in the contemporary socialization of children is television. Unlike a parent, teacher, or other significant persons in the child's life, television provides a “window to the world” beyond the immediate culture of the child's family and neighborhood.

    Much discussion has occurred regarding the benefits and drawbacks of television viewing. Yet, the reality is that most households in the United States have televisions, and children spend a significant amount of time viewing that which is offered. Television is here to stay; therefore, a more constructive mind-set would be to perceive television as a social-cultural educational medium. And as is the case with any educational medium, time and effort must be spent in learning more about what television is capable of doing and not doing toward the education and socialization of our youth.

    We have endeavored to present to the diverse audiences for which this book has been written the thoughts and recommendations of scholars from communications studies, psychology, and other related fields who have made the television viewing practices of children the focus of their research efforts. Furthermore, we have sought the reflections of broadcasters involved in creating television programs for children.

    What Children Learn from Television

    Television, when used wisely, can make a significant contribution to the social-cultural education of children. So what do children learn from this “audiovisual tapestry”?

    Television offers children a unique opportunity to see the world as perceived by others. By being exposed to the attitudes, values, views, thinking, and behaviors of cultures beyond the confines of the child's own phenomenology, the child has an opportunity to learn more about herself or himself. Of course, the caveat here is whether what children learn about themselves from television is best left unlearned. Here, we must all take on our share of the responsibility for ensuring that children benefit from their experience with this medium.

    As educators, we must be prepared to teach children and their parents to become wise consumers of this visual medium. As researchers, we must continue to persevere in our efforts to better understand the television viewing practices and needs of young viewers. And as broadcasters and media executives, we must commit ourselves to meet the challenge of offering children and their parents programming that is sensitive to the social-cultural diversity that exists while being entertaining.

    How Children Learn from Television

    Offering children programs that reflect the “cultural tapestry” of our world may in part be hindered by the diverse opinions among scholars as to the learning mechanism associated with television viewing. So what do we know about how children learn from this visual medium?

    A complex issue is attempting to understand exactly how children learn from television. From reading the chapters written by the various contributors, it is apparent that there is no consistent way in which the learning process is theoretically conceptualized. On the other hand, it appears that television viewing is more often seen as an active process rather than an exclusively passive one by those individuals who study this medium. Of course, the quality of the interaction is tempered by the child's own stage of cognitive development.

    Clearly, our understanding of the precise mechanism that explains how children learn from television is still in need of further study. On the other hand, children do learn from their television viewing experiences just as they learn from observing and interacting with their parents, siblings, peers, teachers, and other significant individuals in their life. Television is unique in that through a child's interaction with what appears on the screen, the child embarks on a set of social-cultural experiences unlike any she or he probably has had an opportunity to experience in person. For some children, what they view on television may be their only opportunity to share in this “cultural tapestry.”

    We are a nation that exists in a world experiencing social unrest, economic crisis, political change, and cultural diversification. Television is a medium upon which many individuals rely to remain informed about the state of our union and the world as a whole. This interdependence that has emerged between viewer and this visual medium places tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of those individuals who make television viewing practices their business and those of us charged with helping children to use it wisely. It is our conviction that television programming, when thoughtfully conceptualized and responsibly viewed, can act as a constructive social-cultural informant.

    Author Index

    About the Contributors

    RICHARD L. ALLEN, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

    JAMES A. ANDERSON, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

    JOY KEIKO ASAMEN, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Pepperdine University, Culver City, CA 90230.

    GORDON L. BERRY, Ed.D., Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA90024.

    JEFFREY E. BRAND, Ph.D. Candidate, Mass Media Ph.D. Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

    MABEL CHUNG, Student, Communication Studies Program, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    SUSAN COLSANT, Ph.D. Student, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.

    GEORGE COMSTOCK, Ph.D., S.I. Newhouse Professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244.

    CATHERINE N. DOUBLEDAY, Ph.D., Assistant Research Educationist, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    KRISTIN L. DROEGE, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    MARGUERITE FITCH, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Central College, Pella, IA 50219.

    HANEY GEIOGAMAH, B.S.A., Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Theater and American Indian Studies Center, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    SHERRYL BROWNE GRAVES, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Educational Foundations and Counseling Programs, Hunter College, New York, NY 10021.

    BRADLEY S. GREENBERG, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor, Department of Telecommunication, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Ml 48824.

    PATRICIA MARKS GREENFIELD, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    DARRELL Y. HAMAMOTO, Ph.D., Visiting Professor, Department of Film and Television, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    KRIS HORSLEY, Student, Communication Studies Program, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    ALETHA C. HUSTON, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Life, and Co-Director, Center for Research on the Influences of TV on Children (CRITC), University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.

    PETER M. KOVARIC, Ph.D., Director of Educational Technology Unit, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    HOLLY KREIDER, Student, Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    DALE KUNKEL, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106.

    DEBORAH LAND, Project Assistant, Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    GERALDINE LAYBOURNE, M.S., President, Nickelodeon/NICK at NITE, New York, NY 10036.

    ELAINE MAKAS, Ph.D., Independent Research Consultant, 129 Nichols Street, Lewiston, ME 04240.

    JOHN P. MURRAY, Ph.D., Professor and Department Head, Human Development and Family Studies, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506–1403.

    EDWARD L. PALMER, Ph.D., Watson Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036.

    MAURICE PANTOJA, Student, Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    D. MICHAEL PAVEL, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

    MILTON E. PLOGHOFT, Ph.D., Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, and Director, Center for Higher Education, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701.

    NANCY SIGNORIELLI, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Communication, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.

    DOROTHY G. SINGER, Ed.D, Co-Director, Yale University Family Television Research and Consultation Center, and Research Scientist, Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520.

    K. TAYLOR SMITH, Student, Department of Psychology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036.

    HORST STIPP, Ph.D., Director, Social and Development Research, National Broadcasting Company, Inc., New York, NY 10112.

    KIM S. STRAWSER, Student, Department of Psychology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036.

    FEDERICO A. SUBERVI-VÉLEZ, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Radio-Television-Film, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.

    JOHN C. WRIGHT, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Life, and Co-Director, Center for Research on the Influences of TV on Children (CRITC), University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.

    EMILY YUT, Student, Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, CA 90024.


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