A research study published in part by an Indiana University professor finds children’s television programming may be contributing to a culture of name calling and demeaning language.
Telecommunications professor Nicole Martins’ work shows that of 50 of the most popular shows on TV targeted at kids aged 2 to 11 years old, 92 percent of them contain incidents of social aggression. The study is the third of its kind, but Martins says it is the first study that tries to answer the question of how social aggression on TV programs affects younger viewers.
“What we find is that in programs that are popular with children, this behaviors are pretty simplistic and really straightforward,” Martins says. “What I mean by that is, we often see it manifest in terms of name calling or insults.”
Martins and Barbara Wilson of the University of Illinois found that children in grades K-5 who watched the most socially aggressive programs often became social bullies themselves.
“These insults and these mean names are readily modeled and fairly easy for children to imitate,” Martins says.
Martins says the study finds televised bullying is often done by the characters who can be seen as heroes of a story. The study concludes social aggression is easier for kids to imitate because social bullies on TV rarely seem to face consequences.