Media is present in every course of our lives. The Internet, mobile phones, television, etc. have become a part of the 21st lifestyle. Media has a strong effect on how social behavior is molded (Croteau & Hoynes, 2003). The importance of media seems even more when we consider our life without it. With the rise of media, has arisen a lengthy and multi-faceted debate on its impact. Conventionally, media has been held responsible for influencing society negatively. Media be it the Internet, television, or print media has faced allegations of corrupting the minds of society. Questions related to media’s negative impact on children especially related to their “scholastic” capability (Heim, Brandtzæg, Endestad, & Torgersen, 2007), mental and physical health of children (Szabo, 2008), body image (Dittmar, 2009), violent behavior due to overexposure to violence-related content in media (Huesmann, 2007), etc. However, media has tremendous power development positive and moral values among all its users (Gurevitch, 1982). It has the power to alter the conceptual understanding and perceptual understanding among individuals. Media is a powerful tool of dissemination and therefore has a strong capability of molding public opinion, behavior, and reaction. No technology can be completely evil; it is its usage by some people that makes it evil. Therefore, the use of media as a potentially strong technology in discoursing young minds must be considered a strong force in altering behavior. Even though the evil effects of media are undeniable, so are their positive effects on the cognitive ability, learning, and discourse on viewers. The effect of media viewing is related to the content of the media, and therefore regulation of the content can change the negative impact to positive discourse. This paper will therefore outline the positive impacts of media especially in disseminating academic and moral discourse.
Media is a potential vehicle for imparting education. In the US, media education or literacy has become a popular form of pedagogical model (Buckingham, 2003). Media provides programs for different ages, especially for different ages. Video games can make toddlers learn stories as well as develop their knowledge of technology (Smith, 2005). Computer-based dramatic games are a capable tool for developing literacy and education among children. According to researchers, computer-aided or visual-based interactive media can be a very effective tool for imparting education among children (Smith, 2005).
There are specific video games, internet sites, or television programs, which are directly targeted towards children of various age groups, and they are made specifically for children. When children watch a program, they actually learn a lot. Young children learn fastest and have an insatiate curiosity for everything. Therefore, programs, which are well-coordinated and made, can be a great resource for imparting children’s education.
Programs like “Dora the Explorer” or “Blue’s Clue” can be useful tools for the development of learning for children (Guernsey, 2006). The latter is a television program focusing on “social and cognitive problem-solving skills in preschoolers” (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008, p. 46). Research states that the clue to make use of these media content as a learning tool by making the children realize that the media content is a social partner (Guernsey, 2006). Research has shown that children exposed to children’s TV programs have shown a positive association with language learning (Anderson & Pempek, 2005). Further educational television programs like “Sesame Street” has a positive influence is increasing intergroup attitude among children and children’s acceptance of children of other races has been established through research (Gorn, Goldberg, & Kanungo, 1976). Further, the American Department of Pediatrics states that media education has the potential of imparting positive messages and educational messages to children as well as less informed adults (1999). Media education is defined as “a multifaceted approach to understanding and eliminating the negative impact of media images and messages on young people.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1999, p. 341) Negative impact of media is actually from the content of the media, which must be controlled to make the source a more effective tool for education (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008).
Often critics of media have stated that media reduces the attention span among children, especially due to early watching on television. However, more recent research on the longitudinal data since 1980 has shown that there is little correlation between media exposure and subsequent problems of attention among children (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008). It can be argued that the critics have ignored the program content to which the children with reduced attention had been exposed. When children are exposed to specifically make educational programs based on, the “curriculum with a specific goal to communicate academic or social skills” is successful in imparting their expected lesson (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008, p. 46). Research has even shown that children in preschools who watch Sesame Street have “higher levels of school readiness than those who do not.” (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008, p. 46).
Learning with media is a complementary process wherein the viewers as well as the medium coordinate to advance the learning process (Kozma, 1991). Media has the capability of imparting education in the same manner as do books and other traditional educational mediums. Learning and education can be imparted more effectively with the aid of media and high technology-oriented teaching modules (Moreno, 2006 ). Therefore, the positive effect of television, and media as a whole, on the academic development of its viewers is undeniable.
Media has an immense effect on the moral judgment development of viewers. Violence and aggression shown on-screen in television and movies develop a sense of moral judgment among individuals. The moral judgment of individuals is aroused when one watches a victim being brought to justice and the criminal being punished. The cognitive process of the development of moral judgment is the key to moral education through media.
What viewers watch in media and how do they interpret it are the two key criteria for the moral discourse through media. The moral domain and interpretation are the key to the development of media literacy skills in individuals (Raney & Bryant, 2002). The depiction of criminals, hostility and terrorizing acts on television reflects an effort to stimulate the moral reasoning of the viewers with regard to justice. Therefore, television programs related to crime or crime-related movies always show the triumph of the just. They always show that people who uphold the law are not convicted, or do not face tribulations. Only those who lead a reckless life of crime are punished. This moral reasoning is disseminated through television cartoons, crime dramas, or movies.
Media delivers moral education through the creation of awareness about social, political, and moral dos and don’ts. Media teaches viewers to uphold truth and fight for justice. These disseminations are popularly imparted through cartoon series like Batman, Superman, etc. Shows for children directly hint at moral education for young and older children like “Brady Bunch” or “Small Wonders”, etc. Further media plays a strong role in establishing the institutional role of a country (Sobel, Dutta, & Roy, 2008). Media helps in economic development as well as balancing the power in the nation among opposing parties so that there is no moral degradation or corruptness and malpractice in the usage of media as a tool to manipulate the public sphere.
Mediums like the Internet, newspapers, televisions, etc. are a constant source of information for us. They provide relevant information regarding what is going on around us, and what is right and what is wrong. For instance, when a TV channel covers the War in Iraq it provides facts from the war, or a documentary on human trafficking or AIDS awareness show will show information regarding possible ways of HIV contamination. These programs or reports are information given to the viewer or reader. It is based on the moral judgment of the individual as to perceive the wrong as wrong and the right as right or otherwise. In terms of dissemination, media spreads information, both positive and negative, and stimulates the individual’s moral judgment.
Media is a strong force of the 21st century that is shaping the whole world. Today we have surrounded my media and its artifacts. Therefore, media is an inevitable form of technology. Though there are numerous critics of the negative effect on media, the positive effect of media cannot be overlooked. Media has the potential of becoming a strong vehicle for imparting academic education to children and improving their cognitive learning and social development skills. Further, media plays a strong role in imparting moral education to its viewers. The media simply does not say this is wrong and this right. However, through the graphic depiction of the triumphant good and defeat of the evil is a clear indication to the viewers that all good deeds become winners. Thus, media instigate the moral decision-making power of individuals as a part of its moral education to its viewers. Thus, media definitely has a positive effect on its viewers and therefore, on society.
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