Historical studies have indicated that until 18th century there were no efforts or endeavours to develop media that specifically targeted young children. During this period most of the material in the media was specifically targeted at the adult audience and therefore young children were forced to look for alternative entertainment platforms like outdoor games and other traditional leisure activities. Contrary to earlier times, recent years have witnessed an increase in media content targeted at children and this has become a major concern among various stake holders. For instance the numbers of internet programs, television channels and computer games aimed at children have sky-rocked in the past few decades and have increasingly taken a large proportion of children’s time traditionally dedicated to other forms of leisure. According to a report by Gigli and InterMedia Survey Institute (3), media propagation and globalization is part of the major factors that have defined and modelled modern day’s young generation. The report also shows that a large proportion of young children in various countries have access to a great variety of media choices than any time in human history. The major platforms include video and computer games, cable, conventional, and satellite television, radio stations and magazines. Rideout, Vandewater and Wartella (11) found out that, currently young people spend more than seven hours a day and seven days a week before TV sets or Computers than any other activity. Immediately the media begun playing a leading role in the lives of young children, it become the subject of heated debate in terms of potential negative as well as positive effects. Despite the usefulness of the media in transmitting information to young children, there is need to regulate its content as well as the time spend by young children consuming its information i.e. children should not be stopped from consuming information but should be guided so as to differentiate between good and bad information.
Recent years have witnessed an increase in the number of media studies aimed at ascertaining the probable effects of media on the attitudes and general behaviour of children, as well as elucidate the longer term consequences of their exposure to specific forms of media, especially video games and television. Various studies by the Kaiser family foundation between 1999 and 2009 have provided critical information on the usage of media and its subsequent effects on the lives of children between the ages of 8 and 18 years old. These studies have attempted to elucidated relationship between the media and children in this age brackets from various aspects including the maximum times spend, the changing trend of media usage, the type of media, and their potential impact among other parameters. According to Rideout, Foehr and Roberts (14), the last few years have witnessed increased usage of all forms of media among children expect reading. For instance between 2004 and 2009 time spend on video games increased by 24 minutes per day, those spend before television increased by 38 seven minutes, while those spend before computers increased by 27 minutes (Rideout, Foehr and Roberts 17). While the other forms of media witnessed an increase in the number of children using them, reading witnessed a gradual decrease of its audience in the same period. For instance time spent by young people between 8 and years old declined from 14 minutes to nine minutes a day (Rideout, Foehr and Roberts 34). The emergence of cell phones as well as the iPod and other forms of MP3 gadgets as forms of media has increased the consumption of media hence increasing the number of hours young people are spending before these modern information platforms. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of young American between 8 and 18 years owning cell phones increased from 39 percent to 66 percent. In the same period, the number of those owning all forms of MP3 players including iPods increased rapidly from mere 18percent to a staggering 76 percent The study by Rideout, Foehr and Roberts (36) also indicated that time spend before television in various platforms have increased by more than four hours per day in the last five years. Another important discovery by this study was the fact that online media is increasing taking most of young people’s time. The study attributes this trend to the emergence of various social networking sites, increasing television content on the worldwide web and propagation of high-speed internet in various homes around the world. For instance the last five years have witnessed an increase in access to internet in various homes of approximately ten percent.
On the effects of media on children’s academic performance, Rideout, Foehr and Roberts (41) found out that more than 47 percent of individuals who spend more than 16 hours consuming media content per day scored lower grade i.e. performed poorly relative to those spending less than 16 hours consuming media content via various platforms. According to the same study, individuals spending more than 16 hours before media were at high risk of getting bored or being unhappy. However, the researchers pointed out that there is need for more research to ascertain these relationships.
On the relationship between media consumption and media environment prevalent in various homes, the researchers reported that homes with strict media consumption rules resulted in reduced consumption of the media among their children and vice versa (Rideout, Vandewater and Wartella 9). The carefree attitude of most parents on their children’s media use habits has been blamed on the current trend of consumption of wrong information from the media among young children. According to this report, most parents around the world have no time for their families, especially children; hence have no information on what kind of information is being consumed by their children. The busy schedule of most adults have hindered them from being a breast with the rapidly changing technology hence have no information on what is being consumed by their young children through their mobile phones, television, movies or what themes are being portrayed by the current games. Most parents do not even know the venues where their children spend time accessing information via various platforms e.g. in internet cafes, their rooms or at their friend’s place.
A report by Gigli and InterMedia Survey Institute (6) indicated that growing media platforms for young children in recent years have raised numerous questions about the quality of the information relayed through them and subsequent impact on children. According to this report, most of the content of the current media is of poor quality and it primarily focuses on undesirable role models, sexual content, violence and they lack diversity. The report also shows that numerous researchers have agreed on some of the negative influences that the current media images have on young people including a marked decrease in the role played by conventional sources of influence e.g. society, religion etc, encourages personal or individualism attitude as opposed to the traditional communal achievement, discouragement of education as well as creativity while putting more focus on banal and trivial , culture of celebrity, propagation of utopian stereotypes resulting in increased apathy among other detrimental effects(Gigli and InterMedia Survey Institute 7). According to (Shifrin 47), a 2005 Sex on TV 4 study indicated that approximately 80 percent of TV program aired in prime-time had sex as their central theme. The study also indicated most of the teen shows aired failed to show the risks associated with irresponsible sexual behaviour. Shifrin (45) discovered that more than fifty percent of teenagers acknowledged being influenced by sex scene on TV. Hence TV has taken the role of sex education for children at home due to the absence of the same both at home as well as school. According to (Shifrin 47) another area that needs immediate attention is the type of games being developed for young children as most of them have violence as their central theme. For instance a study by Kimberly Thompson as cited in (Shifrin 47) showed that more than 64 percent of E-rated games (as good for children above 6 years of age), and propagated violence.
The information from the various research findings discussed above have clearly pointed out the need for the society as well as the government to regulate the kind of content being relayed to young children through the explosion of various media platforms. The government can enact policies and other regulations that call for censorship of information being relayed through the various media platforms e.g. there is need for a blanket ban on the development of violent video games. As for the society, there is need to force the media fraternity to air programs that promote morality, education and integrity so as to offer young people alternative source of information. There is also need for sex education both at home, church, mosques and schools to educate children on the consequences of irresponsible sexual behaviour. Parents should also have enough time to monitor what kind of information is being shared relayed to their children via their mobile phones, internet as well as TV. Parents are also advised set some rules concerning media usage in their homes. For instance parents should discourage unlimited access to TV and computer among their children.
Gigli, Susan and InterMedia Survey Institute. “Children, Youth and Media around the World: an Overview of Trends & Issues.” Report on 4th World Summit on Media for Children and Adolescents Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2004. Web.
Rideout, Victoria J., Vandewater, Elizabeth A. and Wartella, Ellen A. “Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, 2003.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2003. Web.
Rideout, Victoria J., Foehr Ulla G. and Roberts, Donald F. “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds–A Report, 2010: 1-85” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2010.
Shifrin, Donald L. “The Effect of Media on Children and Adolescents” European paediatric review. 2007. Web.