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INFLUENCE OF MASS MEDIA IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT IN UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE
1.0 Background of the Study
The influence of mass media in Nigeria has become the order of the day in this twenty first century. We live in a society that depends on information and communication to keep moving in the right direction and do our daily activities like work, entertainment, health care, education, personal relationships, travelling and everything else that we have to do. If we want to be well informed and have friends, we must be over exposed to the mass media. According to Anderson (2008), Mass media is defined as those channels which transmit information simultaneously to a large number of people. These channels include radio, television, printed media, electronic communications media of the Internet, etc. These helps to connect individuals to one another and to the world. Invariably, this powerful influence shapes the ways in which viewers or participants perceive the world. Mass media also aids mass communication.
According to Bushman (2011), mass communication is any form of communication transmitted through a medium (channel), that simultaneously reaches a large number of people. The influence of mass media in the development of children in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized, this is because children in their developing stage engage in leisure activities which includes, listening to radio, watching television, reading of comic or story books etc. Children enjoy radio and television programmes and can easily obtain comic, story books and magazines on demand. Children find it very easy to follow the spoken words on radio. The radio brings to the children their favorite and latest music. The movies transfer children to their dream land. Children identify with their Heroes and there is thrill and excitement and lots of action when watching these television programmes.
However, according Dodwell (2008), there are three stages to a child development. These stages includes firstly, the Infants and Toddlers stage, this involves children between birth and 2 years. When children are around 4 months of age, they begin to exhibit interest in television watching. Around this time, their ability to detect cues in their environment has matured, and their ability to locate a sound in space by turning their head or eyes in the direction of the sounds. The Second stage is the Early Childhood stage. The Early childhood covers children between the ages of 3 and 6 years of age. During this period of time, children typically demonstrate egocentrism (i.e., an inability to separate their own perspective from the perspectives of others), by early childhood, children start to experience conscious emotions such as envy, guilt, and embarrassment ( Fisch, 2014). Younger children (3 years) spend the majority of their media time using television, while older children (4 to 6 years) also begin to add video games to their daily media diet and finally, in this age group the use of mobile devices such as tablets and Smart phones is in the increase. Third and lastly, is the Middle Childhood, during this stage, thought processing become more mature and adult-like. Children can now clearly distinguish between fantasy and reality. Children in middle childhood stage incorporate media into their daily lives at relatively high rates and spend most time of the day viewing television. During this period, children develop a preference for entertainment media that is faster and more complex, and this contains action and violence (Huesmann, 2003).
More so, it is noteworthy to understand that, much that appears in the form of entertainment provided by mass media is not always the best. The way children use mass media is not always the wisest. The mass media influence the way children dress, talk, behave and think (Jordan, 2007). Children’s views on things, attitudes and opinions change a lot too. They copy the styles of famous people and sometimes forget who they really are. They try to look like celebrities but they do not know how to get good marks at school. The internet imposes a model of style, behaviour, attitudes and fashion and that makes children look alike and act similarly (Lang, 2012). The influence of media on children in Nigeria is very high and mass media can influence the child either positively or negatively. The negative effect of mass media on child development is that they buy whatever they see on television, what their favorite celebrity advertise. Television, newspapers or magazines promote bad ones to be products we can trust, and their decision is mostly based on the media (Woodard, 2007). Because children spend much time on mass media they become lazy, too skinny or obese and aggressive. This is because they have been linked to excessive use of violent video games and war images (Bushman, 2011).
Moreover, when we watch television or a movie, we usually see many images of violence and people hurting others. The problem with this is that it can become a traumatic experience especially with our children, as we see it more and more ( Anderson, 2008). Children that are starting to grow and are shaping their personality, values and beliefs can become aggressive or they can lose a sense of reality (Eysenck, 2007). An example of a positive influence is, if there is a sport that is getting a lot of attention by the media and gains popularity among your friends and society, you will more likely want to practice that sport and be cool with all your friends. The result is that you will have fun with your friends and be healthier because of the exercise you are doing (Bushman and Huesmann, 2006). Another positive effect of media today, is the ease with which children have learned to embrace technology, be it the computers, Internet or the ipods. Children have no phobia for technology (Kirkorian and Anderson, 2011). Media has also contributed to increase the overall awareness of children about their surroundings. In addition to this, media has also resulted in enhanced overall knowledge and understanding of curriculum subjects owing to the vast information resources that the media has to offer. If managed properly, media can be effectively used to generate awareness amongst children about issues like sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol and smoking (Giauque, 2005).
However, the role of mass media on child development cannot be exhausted; this research work therefore, seeks to identify the impact mass media has on children development in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This research is geared towards having a proper understanding on the way mass media affect a child’s development. Over the years it has been observed thatthe days of children coming home from school, eating homemade lunch and then going outside to play with their friends until it is time to do homework are gone (Rushton, 2009). Today, children are often home alone after school, and as a result of that, they sometimes are tempted to spend their time being entertained with video games, watching television, downloading music and chatting on the Internet instead of doing their homework and more active leisure activities (Kirkorian and Anderson, 2011). These temptations are all competing for children's time at the expense of their education, health and well-being. Attitude and values characterized in movies and television programmes are usually presented as stereotypes, all policemen are portrayed as blundering fools and crooks. Children then come to think of all these people as having the qualities shown on the screen (Rushton, 2009). Today’s film emphasizes that kindness and sympathy are weaknesses and that scolding and cunningness are the kind of values that count. A constant exposure to these standards may result in children being influenced to think along similar lines (Valkenburg, 2004). Similarly programmes showing crimes, torture and cruelty may in time, make the child insensitive to violence (Huesmann, 2003). The stores and plots in the media encourage children to place a high value on money, glamour, luxury which is not the values we would like to teach our children (Donnerstein, 2012). Positive mass media usage will help build and position the child for a better and prosperous future and at large build a better society we all will want to live in, while negative mass media usage will affect academic behaviour, moral choices, educational aspiration and subsequently their overall development (Szybist, 2011). What is necessary is for us to stop the negative influence of the mass media in child development. Hence this has brought the need to investigate the influence of mass media in child development in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State