How Popular Culture Affects Children Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2178 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

¶ … Popular Culture Affects Children Today

The question of how various social forces affect children today has become an important topic for social scientists. Children are the future of this country and the way children are brought up will fundamentally affect our future. Children at the same time are more susceptible to propagating ideas. And since in today's consumer culture the sexually-oriented products as well as images of violence, impropriety, and adult behavioral traits are sold as consumer goods through mass media, it becomes ever more important to learn and understand how Popular Culture affects children today. The purpose of this paper is a modest attempt to understand the process and the mechanism of the propagation of popular culture many of which specifically target children. The process will also be analyzed by using sociological perspectives of functionalism, critical/social conflict approach, interactionism, postmodernism, and globalization.

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Sociologist Richard Schaefer (2009) defines culture as "the totality of learned, socially transmitted customs, knowledge, material objects, and behavior. It includes the ideas, values, and artifacts (for example), DVDs, comic books, and birth control devices) of groups of people" (p. 57). Culture is also defined as "a way of life including widespread values (about what is good and bad), beliefs (about what is true), and behavior (what people do every day)" (Macionis, 2010, p. 2). So then popular culture refers to socially transmitted customs, knowledge, objects, behavior, and a way of life that have become popular in the eyes of the population. For understanding the functioning of popular culture in the United States where the economy is a capitalist economy, it is useful also to understand the culture of capitalism which "is devoted to encouraging the production and sale of commodities" (Robbins, 2011, p. 11).

TOPIC: Research Paper on How Popular Culture Affects Children Assignment

Functionalist perspective emphasizes the way every element of the society helps to maintain stability (Schaefer, 2009). Critical or conflict theory suggests that the best way to understand social behavior is to measure it in terms of tension between social groups. This perspective is primarily based on Marxist analysis of class conflict (Schaefer, 2009). Interactionist perspective is relatively free from value judgment and looks at everyday interactions, symbols, nonverbal communications, and other forms of social interaction in order to understand society in general (Schefer, 2009). Postmodernism grew out of modernity and is a philosophical approach which rejects the idea that we can understand reality in a detached way and absolutist terms. Postmodernism suggests that everything we know is socially constructed (Witt, 2007). Globalization is defined by Macionis (2010) as "the expansion of economic activity around the world with little regard for national borders" (p. 292).

Popular culture today in America which are most appealing to children includes such items as toys, dolls, television, internet, music, fast food, clothing and fashion and. Most literature based on critical Marxist analysis condemns the media and popular culture as unhealthy on the development of children. But if we look at it from a functionalist perspective, which sees popular culture as a stabilizing force in American society, the only thing that we have to fear about popular culture is the fear itself in the assumption that popular culture is detrimental to the formation of normal human beings in most instances. Let us know first look at the critical Marxist theory which sees popular culture as an oppressive tool which exploits children for the purpose of generating profit and influences children negatively, propagating violence, pornographic imagery, and impropriety.

Soon after being born children begin to identify the new world they see around. Despite their inability to comprehend, they experience touch, sounds and smells around them. As children learn and absorb all of the stimuli around them, they begin to form their own thoughts on life. Since many children mimic and adopt traits of people around them (Jenkins), it may be reasonable to argue that if children are exposed to popular culture through mass media outlets such as television, some part of their forming identity will be based on this medium and may be harmful. Many advertisers today specifically target children on television and through other modes of commercialization. As one marketing specialist put it, to justify targeting children for selling their products, "even two-year-olds are concerned about their brand of clothes, and by the age of six are full-out consumers" (Robbins, 2011, p. 23).

More than anything else, children today consume images of violence, both through videogames and on television. Violence on television is the most commonly experienced exposure to violence in the lives of most children. While it is common knowledge that there is a great deal of violence on television, it is important to bear in mind that there are many different kinds of violence on television. For example, some shows feature human actors, acting out brutally violent acts, such as murder, rape and torture. While these may not be intended for young children, the reality is that many such children have access to them. At the other extreme, even cartoons usually portray at least some violence. Often this is extreme violence, such as pianos dropping on heads. However, the characters usually do not bleed or die, and they are in any event clearly fictional, so one might expect that the impact is not as great as graphic violence with human actors. It is therefore reasonable to assume that graphic violence is more harmful to children. Because of this, parents might be relieved to know that researchers have found that of all the violence on television, only about 10% is graphic violence (Potter and Smith, 2000). However, while this might not seem like much, the frightening reality is that this is equivalent to the average child watching one graphic, violent act every day (Potter and Smith, 2000).

It is disturbing to think of young children watching such scenes, but the unfortunate fact is that many do. Similarly, video games also frequently involve graphic violence. It is reasonable to fear that all of this exposure to violence might have some kind of negative effect on the development of aggression in children and adolescents. After all, it is generally assumed that children and adolescents learn by imitating what they see around them. Certainly, this fear is sufficiently widespread that many researchers have investigated the developmental effects of exposure to violence on young people.

In the course of this, researchers have identified three potential effects: desensitization to violence; disinhibition (that is, becoming more likely to commit acts of violence) and fear (Potter and Smith, 2000). Certainly, some researchers are quite certain that exposure to violent media translate into increased aggressiveness in young people. For example, Behrman (2002) has noted that over 1,000 studies have demonstrated a link between aggressive behaviours and exposure to media violence. Moreover, children who have been thus exposed have been found to be more likely to see aggression as an acceptable method of conflict resolution, and to be relatively desensitized to violence (Behrman, 2002).

It seems clear that exposure to violent media tends to affect the development of some children and adolescents, in that it makes them more likely to be aggressive. Moreover, Kim & McDonald (2001) argue that videogames are likely to be more damaging than other media, for three important reasons. Firstly, videogames (and other electronic games) have become much more interactive since 1980. This allows a child to "become a 'member' of the game in a manner quite different from television" (Kim & McDonald, 2001, p. 246). This high level of interactivity and involvement would seem likely to mean that the child is even more likely to identify with the fictional characters. Secondly, the percentage of video games in which the main activity is violent action is alarmingly high. Often there is no plot, simply violence. For example, in many videogames the main point of the game is simply to "kill" others. Researchers note that to "the extent that players learn these behaviors are acceptable, they may enact them in real life" (Kim & McDonald, 2001, p. 246). Thirdly, because videogames can be taken with the child wherever he/she goes, they have a much greater potential than television to become a companion to the child (Kim & McDonald, 2001).

It might be thought that this tendency to use fictitious characters as role models, and to imitate them, is something that would only affect children, while adolescents and adults would be immune, as they would have a fully developed sense of self. However, this is not the case, researchers have found (Kim & McDonald, 2001, p. 251). While it appears to be true that identifying with others is a part of human development, and that as people grow older than identify less and less with other characters, adolescents and adults. The researchers note that this kind of comparison of the self with an "other" who is a fictitious, electronic character, may continue throughout life. Thus, adolescents are certainly not immune (Kim & McDonald, 2001, p. 251). So, it is not totally accurate to assume that the negative influences of popular culture propagated… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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