Children and the Media

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Feb 25, 2011

Today, all members of our society are influenced both directly and indirectly by powerful media vehicles, including printed materials, television, sound recordings, and the Internet. Publicists, promoters, and sales personnel have at some point used all of these media to advocate what people should wear, what they should eat, and what values they should hold. Vivid colors and language tell us what is happening in the world and how to react to the events shown. Although much of our society’s media seems dominated by superficial chitchat, hyped news events, and depictions of violence, it is also a source of education, humor, and nonviolent entertainment. Just remember that the effect of media will vary with a child’s age and stage of development.

Most realize that although the different media forms can be used elegantly for mediated learning, their major objectives are entertainment and product promotion. In the following section, we discuss what we broadly term the entertainment industry in its role as a general, society-wide influence on young children. We first discuss two of its primary forms, print and television, and then treat other current media under the rubric of the industry in general.

Print Materials

The kind of books and other print media that children read and have read to them influences and supports their emotional, social, and intellectual development both directly and indirectly. Print materials, such as books, magazines, and newspapers, reach the child indirectly, through parents, caregivers, and teachers, and directly, such as when children participate in a library presentation or select particular publications to buy or borrow. The printed material made available to children implies the values of the home, school, and community (Aldridge & Kirkland, 2006).

Print media affect children’s development indirectly through the publications their parents read. Books and magazines inform adults how to lead healthy and productive lives and proclaim the dangers of unhealthy practices. Advertising affects the types of clothing, food, and (especially) toys bought for children. Some toys engage children’s imagination and are designed for groups of children playing together. Other toys are more suitable for children playing alone. Children’s potential for social and intellectual development is affected by which type of toy adults are motivated to buy.

Studies on early literacy indicate that the amount and types of printed materials that adults have in the home, as well as how adults interact with these materials around children, affect the children’s interest and literacy achievement (Desmond, 2001). From the books that adults read to children, children internalize attitudes, feelings, and biases about their own and other cultures. Zach, in the chapter’s opening vignette, had a chance to express aggression in acceptable ways through Three Billy Goats Gruff. He was influenced in the kind of clothes he wanted by the story Max’s Dragon Shirt. Books, like peers, provide children with a vision of their world that sometimes reaffirms their own lives and sometimes challenges their perspectives.

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