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Outline and evaluate some of the arguments for the supposed effects of media on behaviour

"For some children, under some conditions, some television is harmful. For some children under the same conditions, or for the same children under other conditions, it may be beneficial. For most children, under most conditions, most television is probably neither particularly harmful nor particularly beneficial." (Schramm, 1960)

The study of media effects includes the relations between media, politics, and the public, the use of media for public health campaigns or for propaganda or educational uses, among many other issues (Livingstone, 1996). Media scholars have been debating the detrimental consequences of media effects, particularly its impact on children for a considerable period of time now. Livingstone (1996) defines the debate as a question of "Whether it can be shown empirically that specific mass media messages, typically those transmitted by television, have specific, often detrimental effects on the audiences who are exposed to them". A host of statistic observation studies, longitudinal studies and numerical studies have tried to indicate the impact of exposure to violence on TV and movies.

Despite the inconclusive evidence, most media researchers tend to agree that the media has significant effects even though they are hard to demonstrate (Livingstone, 1996). At the same time researchers also agree that effects like increased aggression can rarely be attributed to exposure of violent programming alone and are facilitated by a multitude of socio-environmental factors. In her book, 'Shocking Entertainment: Viewers Response to Violent Movies', Hill argues that it is necessary to understand the process of viewing violence to fully comprehend the effects of violence. Inspite of this scholars, researchers and parents continue to remain concerned for the effects of violent programs on children and believe that the negative impact of these violent programs is immeasurable. In an effort to curb the menace, some organizations are lobbying for the introduction of media literacy in schools. Media literacy attempts to educate children about the effects of the media. The objective is to make the child more discerning about the media dynamics so that he/she can recognize difference between reality and contrived programs. However, ironically, in the field of media effects, even an effect between increased media literacy and resistance to media panic has not been proven (Livingstone, 1996).

To conclude, although a large volume of work has been done around the impact of the media, the field has yet to draw any substantial conclusions. As Schramm (1961) highlights in his quote (above) about the impact of television on children, there is no clear pattern of effects. Research inadequacies ensure that it will be a while before we will be able to obtain conclusive results. Yet one thing is clear: the exposure to violent programming should be monitored and supervised. The onus for children's health and development lies on the school teachers and parents and it is vital that parents take adequate steps in ensuring that their children are made aware and have a healthy outlook towards the violent content that they consume daily. Media literacy is a vital component, yet the field still remains largely unstructured and needs to be developed further to ensure effectiveness. Till then the onus remains on us to equip our children with the correct attitude towards violence and television. There is too much evidence to simply ignore the issue as another 'moral panic'.

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