The Entertainment Industry's Effect on Children
Almost all young children in the United States are exposed, on a daily basis, to entertainment and education delivered through other media besides print and television. Films (in theaters and on cassette or DVD), radio, sound recordings on compact disc and audiocassette, computer games, plus access to the Internet are the main sources.
The entire entertainment industry now has a tremendous influence on American society. Whereas a few movie stars, musicians, and sports figures were the entertainment models for generations during the 20th century, today, the visual and auditory stimuli of the new media bombard most homes and communities. Some of this exposure is educational, positive, and directed at an appropriate level for young children. A considerable amount of current fare, however, is violent in nature, is provocative, and is presented in ways unsuitable for children’s level of maturity (DeGaetano, 2005; Levin, 2005). With the rapid expansion of electronic transmission devices, young people are exposed more than ever to both good and bad influences.
Producers and advertisers expand successful films and television shows by flooding sales counters with associated toys, clothing, and DVDs. Similar marketing comes from developers of video and computer games. These games influence individuals’ values, compete for children’s attention, and certainly reduce the amount of reflection and interaction time children have with both adults and peers (Singer & Singer, 2001). Although some maintain that such games are opportunities for children to “let off steam,” others insist that there are better ways of achieving this goal.
In 2002, the U.S. Department of Commerce (2004) found that 74% of married couples with children had a home computer and that 87% of those maintained Internet access. In addition, over 90% of American elementary schools have Internet access. Meaning that the wonders and dangers of global electronic communication are available to a large majority of American children.
The Internet is now the world’s largest source of information; it completely dwarfs even the world’s renowned libraries. The amount of information is extraordinary for today’s young people; it also carries great potential for misuse. For example, many primary-school-age children regularly “surf the ‘Net’” and tell about their findings. Pornography is widely available to any child willing to misrepresent his or her age. Even more alarming are the steadily expanding hate-group Web sites, some of which are designed for children. Some help arrived with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, and Web-filtering software continues to appear on the market.
Internet filtering systems are a must to make Internet use in schools and homes safer. WebBlocker is installed in many schools, and a 2003 Supreme Court decision permits such programs to be used by public libraries. CyberPatrol and Net Nanny are examples of useful filters for home computers. A filtering system is a resource that must be harnessed successfully by families, schools, and communities if its potential is to be productive (Hafner, 2002).
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