Television and Children: Program Evaluation, Comprehension, and Impact

By Brian R. Clifford; Barrie Gunter et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

Television plays an important -- perhaps even a significant -- part in the lives of the vast majority of the population. It is used for many different purposes, by different people, at different times, in different places. It is an easy medium, not only in the sense of being readily available but also in the sense of requiring minimal engagement and interaction. It is also readily responsive to human needs. Thus, viewers can be stimulated or relaxed by it; they can be entertained or horrified by it; they can be educated or intrigued by it; and they can be isolated or "networked" by it. All this at a touch of a button.

That television is a desirable medium is testified to by the presence of one or more sets in more than 98% of households in the United States and the United Kingdom; the presence of a videorecorder in more than 70% of these households; and the great number of hours viewed per day by their owners and their offspring. And yet there seems to be a duplicity of thought concerning this desired and appreciated medium. When one looks at the metaphors employed to describe the functions and operations of television, and adults' interaction with it, they are predominantly pejorative -- "the one-eyed monster," "the uninvited guest," "the plug-in drug," "the boobtube," "the electronic baby sitter," "the goggle box," "the idiot box," "the hypnotist," and "the Trojan horse." Thus, although adults seem to like television, as shown by their behavior activity, they seem to fear it cognitively, as shown by their linguistic behavior. But this apparent duplicity is resolved by noting the asymmetric application of their fears. This is shown by Winn ( 1977/ 1985), one of the earliest and most vociferous critics of television. Her barbs were reserved for children and television, not

-vii-

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