How is Television Affecting your Children?

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Television has through the years proven to be an important socialization agent in children’s lives; socialization is no longer solely reserved to the influences of family, peers and other people in children’s immediate environment. Television stands out as a key medium with greatest socialization effects exceeding all other media in its influence on young children across the globe. Children spend considerable amounts of time watching television therefore it is important to pay attention to the content that they are exposed to. Over time, it has been established that media effects on children are more adverse than on adults since the gratifications sought are different; while the adults generally watch television for fun, children watch it for purposes of learning and recognition. Of concern however, is that special considerations and attention on the media content being produced for children aren’t being emphasized.

Content analysis done for instance on children programming by the United States Parents Television Council reveal that children programs contain similar amounts of indirect and verbal aggression as general programs but neither type of aggression are considered when creating ratings for children’s programs. With digital broadcasting, audience segmentation has been enhanced and as a result most Kenyan children are now having greater access to programs mostly whose content is produced for audiences based in the developed countries which has greatly exposed the Kenyan child to foreign programs raising concern on the effect this has on them. Programs specially designed for the Kenyan child are lacking with emphasis being placed by content producers to designing programs for other audiences especially those with buying power. Further, stifled with challenges of funds and infrastructure, Kenya has not been able to invest in children content production opting for already foreign produced children content.

In the advent of digitization process in Kenya, (Nguru, 2013) predicted that the limited capacity to produce content locally would lead to heavy reliance by the digitized television on foreign content further exposing the local audience to a tsunami of foreign programming that would destabilize and displace the rich local values and heritage. The pertinent question is how this exposure to foreign content over extended periods of time will influence the Kenyan child. The content children watch on television is at least important as, and probably more important than, how much they watch. It is therefore important to consider investing in content production targeting Kenyan children. New regulations set up by Communications Authority of Kenya demand that television broadcasters increase local content by 60 per cent excluding news and advertising in the next four years yet a majority are yet to meet the previous set requirement of 40 per cent local content; investing in local programs targeting children is one area that has great potential that is yet to be tapped.

Studies conducted by various researchers across the globe have linked watching television by children with alterations in their behavior; most of these studies have however, been conducted in developed countries with very few conclusive studies having being done in developing countries including Kenya which are heavily relying on foreign media content and especially children related content. More local children content needs to be produced from the developing countries other than on the current extensive reliance on foreign television programs which the children can’t relate to and alters their social realities. The Kenyan Government needs to closely work with developed countries keen on investing in the country through children content production and other stakeholders including local content producers and the media stations. The African child needs African content produced for them. There is urgent need for the producers to focus on content that will amplify children’s morals and values such as honesty, generosity, and respect among others; content that will help them appreciate their cultures and the diversity that comes with it.

E-Mail: mnjiiri@gmail.com

An initiative with the goal of promoting the critical role of traditional media in advancing and sustaining democratic governance in Kenya.
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