Apparently, television still reigns supreme in America. According to a recent study from Indiana University, preadolescent children still watch more television than anything else. It’s more popular than video games, smart phones, tablets, books… you name it.
But that’s not the interesting part of the study. Apparently, watching television negatively affects a child’s self-esteem.
Unless, that is, the child is male and white.
Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, and Kristen Harrison, professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, surveyed a group of 400 preadolescents from racially diverse school districts in Illinois. Besides finding that black kids on average watch 10 hours more TV than their white counterparts in a given week, they also found a negative correlation between hours watching TV and self-esteem for all groups but white males.
The authors believe that this is largely due to TV shows continuing to reinforce negative stereotypes. Women are given one-dimensional characters who often succeed based on their looks while black characters are often depicted as hoodlums and buffoons without much variety in the roles they occupy. On the other hand, white male characters are often depicted as being in positions of power, with good jobs, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, and all with very little portrayal of the work that it took to achieve it all.
I don’t watch a lot of TV – especially the types of shows that preadolescents are likely to watch – but I find this a little hard to swallow. Surely television networks have gotten the message about giving fair due to all races and genders in their programming? I would have thought so based on the way that society talks. However, I have to believe that the authors know a bit more about the subject than I do.
I’m much more likely to consider their alternate hypothesis. The more time kids spend in front of the TV, the less time they spend playing with other kids, participating in extracurricular activities, and generally doing things that will make them feel good about themselves. Thus, increased time in front of the boob tube for minorities could be shorting their self-esteem in that regard.
Whatever the reasons, the numbers don’t lie. Just another reason to keep your kids television time down to a minimum.