Effect of Television Viewing on the Moral Behaviour of Nigerian Children


  The impact of television programmes on children may be neglected by many without knowing that they have great impact on the behaviour of children both mentally, morally, psychologically and even spiritually.

Children grow up to socialize with people around them and television is one of the agents of socialization as a result it is a means through which the attitudes, behaviour, dispositions, opinions of children are formed.

Children need to be acquainted with acceptable societal standards so as to prevent them from becoming social deviants and to inculcate moral ways of life in them so as to be able to distinguish between conducts that are morally right or wrong.

The media dish out variety of programmes and children expose themselves to such programmes. It is on this note that the researcher wishes to study the postulations of other researchers who have carried out studies relating to this topic so as to be able to make an objective analysis of the study.

This chapter will therefore look at the concept of television from the point of view of the scholars, a brief history of television is also an integral part of this research work. Furthermore, this chapter will concentrate on television as a medium for mass communication and television as an instrument of social change. A look into some of the theories that support the study is worth being accessed in this chapter.

2.2  Concept of Television

       Television is an electronic medium used in disseminating information to a wide and diversified audience.

Nwosu (2005, p.164) states that:

Television is the medium that possess credibility, audio visual qualities, and can be utilized in virtually development communication.


The above statement shows that television possesses the ability to bring changes, which could be either positive or negative.

Agba (1998, p.17) asserts that:

Television messages tend to sound more authentic in that their signals engage both the auditory and visual senses not to mention their sensual component.



Anunike (2000, p.98) maintains that:

Television is one of the audio and visual media of mass communication; this is made possible with the use of camera and microphone.             


A look they say is worth more than thousand words. It is however, based on this that television viewing goes a long way in altering the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and general behaviour of children and this has therefore formed the basis of this research work.


1.3  Brief History of Television

Television has been the most important invention in communication technology today, after the printing press. It’s invention has changed the way various professionals operate. It has changed the nature, operations and relationships of their audiences to books movies and radios. Baran (2006, p.244)

It was in 1884 when Paul Nipkow, a Russian scientist living in Berlin developed the first workable device for generating electronic signal suitable for the transmission of a scene that people could see.

According to Baran (2006, p.422):

Vladimir Sworykin demonstrated his konoscope tupe, the first practical television camera tube in 1923. At the same time, young Philo Farnsworth has moved from Idaho to San Francisco to prefect an electronic television system…. In 1927, at the age of 20, he made his first public Demonstration. The first two commercial stations took off in 1941. The World War II brought about technical development and improvement of the new media continued.         



Since then, television has improved over the decades as communication medium.


2.4  Televisions as a Medium for Mass Communication

       The mass media are the agents of mass communication. They are the channels through which communication is done, Nwosu (2005, p.161).

There are two major branches of mass media which Nwosu listed as print media and electronic media.

The electronic media comprises of the radio, television principally and then the motion picture and the audio-video. Nwosu (2005, p.164).


Also, Nwosu (2005, p.164) quoting staurt states:

The mass media has the ability to reach millions, to raise issues, to create awareness on topics and to disseminate information with great efficiency.


In his own view, Ofor (2004, p.2) assets:

The electronic medium is made up of three major segments. They are: radio, television and film.



Television therefore is a medium of mass communication. As an aspect of mass media, the functions of television can be linked to the functions of mass media which Ofor (2004, p.4) highlighted thus:

The basic function of the press or mass media is to inform, educate and entertain other sub-functions include: socialization, mobilization, opinion moudling, crusading, integration and ombudsman.


2.5  Television as an Instrument of Social change

According to Okunna (2003, p.10):


Human beings eat social animals and their desires and ability to live in groups give rise to organized societies with identifiable cultures. A human child who is born into a social group begins life as an amoral being, knowing absolutely nothing about the social and cultural environment into which he/she has been born. Through the process of socialization, as the child learns the norms and values of his/her culture and those of the wider society, moral development is achieved as those norms and values are incorporated into the individual’s yardstick for judging human actions as good or bad.


Immediately a baby is born into a family, the parents and family members waste no time to teach the child the modes of culturally accepted behaviour. This is primarily childhood socialization.

The process of socialization of the child which starts in the family is a process that continues through many other agencies like the school, peer group, church, mass media etc.

Ofor (2004, p.5) states that:

The socialization function of the mass media is juxtaposed with the education function of the press because of the press ability to constantly educate the masses, the society is implicitly preconditioned and tamed with the right attitude and disposition. The daily dosage of reportage that the press serves the masses tremendously transform the behavioral patterns, such that people tend to appreciate one another in an euphoria of good neighborliness.


In support, Offor, citing Okunna (1999, p. 108) states:

Mass media as a socializing agency works closely with other socializing agencies like family, the school,, the church, the peer group. Through the process of socialization, the individual is made aware of an internalizes the values, norms and acceptable behavioral patterns of the society. They provide a common body of knowledge the internalization of which enables people to operate as effective members of the society.


Television as a medium of mess media therefore, in its socialization function, involves an all round acculturation and modeling of the masses so as to ensure that they are well equipped with patriotic disposition, law abiding and well nurtured to accept developments that will bring positive change.


2.6  Media Influence on Children

On the influence of television, George Rodman (2006, p.255) maintains that:

There are various findings from the world of media research designed to explain how various media distort reality and what effects these realities have on society… media violence causes increased violence in the society.


He further analyzed the General Influence of media on individuals on the society when he wrote:


The impacts of the media are as old as the media themselves… At the tine children went to the movies once a week, on average and many experts and lay people alike were concerned that movie going children seemed to be picking up antisocial habits through a phenomenon know as modeling.


The impact of television viewing on children has been a matter of deep concern since the swift expansion of television in the 50s. This had made people to wonder whether the high degree of violence TV picture produces might translate to a violate generation.

Nwosu (2005, p.40) quoting Berenson states that:

Some kind of communication on some kind of issues brought to the attention of some kind of people, under some kind of conductions have some kind of effects.


George Rodman (2006, p.255) stressed on the postulation of Marshall McLuhan when he stated.

It was the nature of communication technology itself, rather than the content that was carried on it that changed society in radical ways – or as he famously put it (the medium is the message).


Rodman explains that McLuhan believes that the idea that the effect of the media could be either good or bad depending on how it was used was the stance of a technological idiot. He maintains that:

Regardless of its contend, a medium like television tends to deaden the critical faculties of individuals.


Explaining further, Rodman reveals that it was Mcluhem who advanced the idea of the “global village” in which information about people of different cultures, in different countries. Thousands of miles away become as meaningful to media consumers as thing happening in their own neighborhood.

As there are differences in audience on how communications affect children, so there are differences on how television programmes affect children.

Effects include emotional responses, attitudinal shift or changes in a child’s view of the world after exposure to certain kind of media. The claim that a steady diet of programmes featuring violence and immorality has little or no effect does not stand. If this is not so, then why do companies spend millions of naira advertising their products and services on the television? Rodman (2006: Pp.422) states:

With its reach and visual impact, television is perfect for image advertising. Television encourages name recognition better than most other media


These advertisers know that television as a medium of communication has a profound effect. The advertisement appeals strongly to consumers to patronize the products. It is to this ends that commercial barons of the world take to adverting.

The same is true however of the content of television programmes. People are bound to be influenced by exposing themselves to such programmes. Hence, what a person watches on television does influence him or her. It is as a result of this fact that people blame most of the ills or immoralities of the world today on television. Awake February (2010, p.16) gave an illustration on how what”. One takes in can have a lasting effect on these who expose themselves to it.


You could liken the things we take into our minds to a type of mental food – mental food? Yes; the information that we absorb from books magazines, television shows, video, video games the internet and song lyric can affect our thinking and our personality just as literal food affect our bodies.


  • Impact of Television Viewing on Children

A very important question that needs to be asked is: How will it have a lasting effect on the lives and behaviour of those who make themselves available to it? Awake (2001,p. 10) Media effect: l.0l

The language, images sounds, ideas Characters, situations, values, aesthetics of mass media becomes the stuff of our thoughts, feelings and imaginations. We humans slowly turn into whatever   Images we carry in our minds.


Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts and feelings can be subtly swayed by what we watch on television and by other forms of entertainment

Awake (2000, p.17) puts more facts to the effects of television when it wrote:

Violence, crime, immoralities and depravity are not invented by television, but the evidence shows that those things are made worse by television.


It is clear therefore, that televisions do not invent those things but with the aid of making people have a steady diet of these, the whole situation of the individual and children perse change for the worse.

From ages three through sixteen, children are likely to devote more time to television than any other activity except sleep.

Rodman (2006, p.450) states:

For some children under some conditions, some television programme is harmful. For other children under the same condition or for the same children under other conditions, it may be beneficial. For most children under most conditions, most television is probably neither harmful nor particularly beneficial”.

Marshallmcluhan also did cultural studies. This study according to Rodman (2006, pg. 452) examined two effects of television ie the long-term effects and the short-term effects. The short-term propels views to act or model acts of violence or other acts they see in the media especially if they intend to be rewarded. The long term on the other hand might experience desensitization. They finally concluded that:

In real life most violence occur between family members, friends or acquaintances while on TV the majority of violence occurs between strangers.

Television viewing has not only had great effect on individual child but its effect on children can be felt in the family and in the society at large.

Rodman maintains that different findings show that:

Terms that were once considered obscene have become common place. Evidence of changing language patterns abound in everyday conversation. During the Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky Scandal, Oral sex become dinner party conversation. With the publicity surrounding Viagra and other male potency drugs, erectile dysfunction was suddenly being discussed in mixed company most experts believe that media have played a role in this transformation.

It was however finally agreed that it is not completely accurate to say that violent television causes violence in the society or immoral television programmes causes immorality in the society without qualifying the statement with words like some or sometimes.

“Today, researchers accept a mixed – effect model which predicts that sometimes, media may have a powerful effect, and sometimes, depending an a complex verity of contingencies a mixture of powerful and minimal effect”.


The mixed effects model makes the most sense. In determining the positive and the negative effects on the moral behaviour of children, it is important to know that most people believe that the media to responsible for almost all the vices in the society.

Uwedinma (2005, p.91) as stated in the journal of communication and information since assert that:

Television programmes have served a means of grousing the common emotions in people and gearing the minds of Nigerian children to specific objectives either the government or society.


He further asserts as stated by Uwedinma that film is the must effective medium of promotion, propagation and even preservation of the culture, but the culture to be preserved should be positive and not negative.

The effect of the media on Nigeria children cannot be over emphasized. It is based on this fact that the Nigerian code of ethics for medic practitioners (Journalistic code of ethics was established and the question of obscene and moral pictures was stressed. It also dealt with prohibiting the mass media and violence).

Ofor (2004):

A journalist should not present lurid pictures of violence, sexual acts abhorrent or horrid scenes.


He also listed article viii of the code which states:

A journalist should not present or report acts of violence, armed robbery, terrorist activity or vulgar display of wealth in a manner that glorify such acts in the eyes of the public.


Anunike (2005, p.29) describes the moral function of television programmes thus:

“It is used to teach moral lessons and values. Such plays that portray deviant and immoral behaviors: where they are presented, the immoral characters are ridiculed and punished while the good ones are rewarded and exalted. Children drama like ‘Tales by moonlight’ of NTA network is an example. Presently, the National Film and Video Censor Board (NFCVB), the policy and regulatory board on film industry has banned the production, screening and distribution of films that promote immorality”.

 Ofor (2004, p.69) states:

Journalists are prohibited from writing and publishing details that glorify immoral conducts like violence, prostitution, armed robbery oppression, aggression, anarchy murder terrorism war, cannibalism as well as other anti-social human activities… media practitioners, should always seek to condemn such acts.

2.8  Theoretical Framework

The theories employed in this study are observational learning theory and social cognitive theory.

These theories assume that people, especially children, tend to learn behaviour of the dramatist personae. This similar to that by which children imitate the behaviour of adults around them.

Observational learning theory is rooted in all the three perspectives of media effects: individual difference, social categories and social relation perspectives.

The social cognitive theory: This theory supports the idea that people learn through observation – and applying it to mass media, especially television.

The theory argues according to Baran (2010) that:

People model the bahviour they see and that modeling happens in two ways. The first is imitation, the direct replication of an observed behaviour… The second is identification, a special form of limitation in which observes do not copy exactly what they see but make a more generalized but related response.

It is based on this theory that a learning process was identified which gave birth to observational learning theory.

Observational learning theory states that observers can acquire (learn) new behaviors simply by seeing those behaviours performed many of us who have never handled a hand gun can do so because we have seen it done. Rodman (2006, p.445).

 He concludes however that:

…One of the primary effects of television is to give heavy viewers a perception that the world is less safe and trustworthy and more violent than it really is.

Studies into the effects of television according to Rodman, shows that in the 1950s and 1960s. television’s apparent influence over children alarmed many parents. Teachers and legislators survey revealed that watching television reduced the amount of time that children spent playing, helping with chores and reading. It became popular for politicians to blame television for contributing to many of society’s ills and research money began to flow from both the government and various foundations to get to the bottom of the problem.

Rodman (2006, p.449) states:

The first major study into the effects of the new medium, television in the lives of our children, was conducted by Wilbur Schramm and his colleagues in the late 1950’s.



The researchers however found out that children from ages three though sixteen children are likely to devote more time to television viewing than any other activity except sleep.


2.9  Summary of Literature Review

       It is therefore pertinent the state that the effects of television viewing on the moral behaviour of children is enormous.

Uwakwe, (2010, p.88) states:

Television is a social force. In fact hew new institutions have more than the television. This is perhaps why scholars got worrisome about the impact of television on people. Would it lead to violence, transform the society relatively or take children into the world of adults early.


Pondering on the above statement which obviously has been justified by several scholars, one would be quick to accept that television has a role to play in the behaviour of children. Uwakwe further explains that television messages appeals to human sensitivity when he wrote.

Television is audio – visual, an attribute which makes it entertaining and appealing to viewers. Modern day TVs are rich in colour and with high resolution.


On this note therefore, having noted the stands of scholars on the impact of television viewing on children, it can be justified that television programmes affect children in no small measures either positively or negatively.

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