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Chapter 13
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Television's Effects on Youth

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Political Advocacy Groups: Media

Infact - Campaigning for corporate accountability

Does TV kill?

Media Awareness Network

Neil Postman's writings on the Web

Chapter 13 - Effects of the Electronic Mass Media

The social effects of broadcasting and cable have been studied using experiments, surveys, panel studies, content analyses and metanalyses.

Over the years various theories have enjoyed popularity as explanations for the effects of the media. The hypodermic needle theory considered the media a powerful persuasive force. This theory held that all people would have more or less the same reaction to a mass-communicated message. The limited-effects theory proposed just the opposite: Because of a variety of intervening variables, the media have little effect. Currently the specific-effects theory is in vogue. This theory argues that there are some circumstances under which the media have a direct effect on people.

The most researched topic in broadcasting is the effect of video violence on the audience. After more than thirty years of research most scientists agree that there is little evidence to support the catharsis theory, however this viewpoint was very popular among the industry executives. Research about the effects of violent games has shown a similar pattern of results.

There is less agreement among scientists about cultivation theory, which states that viewing large amounts of TV will distort a person’s perception of reality. Evidence is mixed about this topic, and more research remains to be done. Television also seems to play a part in sex-role and racial stereotyping.

Broadcasting has had a major effect on politics. It provides political information, sets voters’ agendas, establishes candidates’ images, and has some limited influence on voters’ attitudes.

Television also seems to have a slightly negative relationship with education. Youngsters who watch a lot of TV do not do as well in school as those who do not watch as much.

Preliminary research into the impact of the Internet suggests that Internet use is generally related to more social contacts and community involvement.

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