Even though suggestive adult humor can be found in childrens programming, the impact commercials have toward children is just as important to watch. Television can provide opportunity for children to learn however it should not be a teacher or babysitter for todays youth. Questions like, If a program is scheduled at all hours of the day and into the night, does this make it appropriate for younger children to watch? should be just one of the many parents should ask when allowing children to watch specific television programming.
Intentional or not, programmers use television to influence todays youth. With todays ability to view childrens programming on a multitude of different stations and different channels for each station, it is amazing on how much of todays programming for young children have hidden layers of adult humor. Television writers put subtle instances of adult humor in to childrens programming which allows for them to draw in ratings from a wider range of viewers.
Rice (2009) conducted a study on popular childrens cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants in which it states the show is directed toward an age group of approximately 2 to 11 year olds, however research shows that it has a variety of audiences in all age groups. Nearly a quarter (22%) of the viewers ranged from ages 18 to 49. Along with this research, Rice also notes on the schedule of the show to emphasize how it is directed toward a large range of viewers. The show was slotted to air between early morning hours to even later hours, up until close to midnight which by then most of the targeted age group would ave been in bed for a few hours by the time of airing.
Rice also recorded subject analysis data for several age groups. In information collected from high school students, the majority of them seem to identify with the shows side kick known as Patrick Star. A large majority of respondents say they watch the show because it is funny, entertaining, and hilarious (Rice, 2009, paragraph, 46). On the other hand, when college students were polled they more or less chose to watch because it helped them unwind from a stressful day, possibly like a treat for their bran after a hard day of class work.
If a show that is targeted for a much younger age group has a relaxing type of effect, it would be interesting to see how it influences the target age group. When childrens programming is actually aimed towards a large range of viewers how adults choose what their children should watch could have an important impact on how they develop. In recent, years television networks an writers have taken a more proactive approach in educating youth through television programming. Some of this can be seen by the creation of junior channels.
Channels like Nick Jr. or Disney Jr. ave created programming geared toward preschoolers and toddlers that use colors and characters to peak their interests. One of the more influential television stations that support child develop has been the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). PBS has had constant influence in child development with shows like Sesame Street and Barney & Friends and now offer new programming like Bob the Builder, Teletubbies and Thomas & Friends. These shows focus on learning in the early stages of a preschoolers development by reaching the alphabet, numbers, dancing, singing and even emotional responses.
According to The Journal of Media Literacy (2012), To capture and hold viewer attention, each Dora episode features a linear narrative shaped around a high-stakes adventure with serious consequences. It calls upon viewers to interact with the television to help Dora overcome a series of structured challenges. When children hear that they did a good job or a positive response, they tend to want to interact more and thus keeps them interested in the programming.
Along with current programming on television, networks have started developing DVDs to sell to parents when current programming might not peak a childs interests. Big Companies like Disney, the Brainy Baby Company and Sesame Workshop have started developing age specific programming. When a large company starts to invest in developmental programming, it gives a better sense of satisfaction as the brand is well known. DVD series like Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby and Sesame Beginnings all have their own niche and targeted age range however all promote development and learning.
Kikorian, Wartella, and Anderson (2008) state shows like Baby Einstein target viewers from as young as one month old and covers a wide range of topics such as music, art, language and poetry while Sesame Beginnings targets children starting at six months of age. This show features younger versions of the Muppets of Sesame Street and promote interaction between children and their caregivers. Kikoran et al. (2008) also discussed the unique effect of television on children under the age of two and suggests that some research shows that exposure to television during the first few years of life may be associated with poorer cognitive development.
This question could be geared toward the overall television experience which includes commercials and the actual programming. With the importance of what is appropriate for children to watch in television, parents seem to be more concerned with actual programming then what is played in between. However, studies have shown that these commercials can be just as influential to our youth. With promotion of movie trailers, current television shows and video games violence is in pure view for children to see and it is less monitored then the actual program.
In order to track this data, the authors in an article in the Journal of Advertising had to define how children and their parents viewed violence. For the children defining violence was much more broad as one child responded with, Violent is fighting with weapons, with swords, blood, and gore and another stated, Violence is bleeding really bad. Sometimes its when somebody falls down and theyre scratched or bleeding really bad (Brocato et al. 2010). Parents were more unified with defining violence with violence consisting of blood, gore and death.
Children seem to think that it is the mother that stresses the importance of them not watching while the fathers feel it is alright as long as they are watching it with them. Both parents shared a common theme in that the commercials are not the issue but the actual programming. Parents also shared that by being present they could address sensitive issues like violence when it happens. Reading through the study it was surprising to see possible limitations that could have address more issues. Parents could have been asked while being present when the issue arose how did the child react to the situation.
Another question that might have been asked is how did the child react to the actual discussion about the topic. Was the child more interested in the programming or on what the parents had to say. Ultimately the article had a good basis for what were the more glaring issues and how both the parents and children valued what was played in commercials. Intentional or not, programmers use television to influence todays youth. This could be from how they act from watching their favorite television program, to desiring a new toy or video game that was currently seen on a commercial.
Parents should take the time to watch what their children are watching. One way to see how a childs favorite program can affect them is to watch the program without the child and then with the child. When watched alone write down instances that might be inappropriate or that draw questions. As the child sits through the program watch how they react to certain situation and then discuss with them on what is positive and what is negative. With correct supervision and discussions, parents have the ability to be a part of the education process with todays youth.