Visual Media Effects

János Beluzsár

In the course of our life we meet every day the visual media: we watch television, read magazines, surf on the Internet, play computer games and see smaller or bigger posters everywhere in the city which advertising newer, better and more practical produces. However, these situations have already become so natural, that we usually don’t realise how they impress us. Because of it, we tend to forget all about the next questions: What do we know about the effects of the visual media? How can it influence our way of thinking, deeds and of course our every day life? Is it possible, that more or less the media direct every people’s life? If it is true, isn’t it frightful? On the other hand, is it useful or harmful for us? Can the visual media give good example for young people? All of these questions are very difficult and complex, but if we can squarely answer them, we can easily know the effects of the visual media.

At the beginning of this millennium the European people couldn’t see pictures at all, and if eventually he or she could, the effect was incredible, what is more, according to several notes, it was mind-bending – at the same time, at the end of the same millennium, people next door to see only pictures, discover the world just by lantern lecture.” – wrote Péter Balassa aesthete in the last years of the twentieth century. His words may a bit exaggerate, but they are cut out for show the development of the technology and present each person’s position in the World. Out of the almost countless visual information, we get day by day maybe the most impressive is the data from television. After this machine had spread widely around the world, the use of this mass communication medium became one of the animal needs. It was recognised by the TV channels, and laying hold of it, without too much limitation, they started to relay every kind of programme in order to extend their watching and profit. However, some of them were very harmful for kids. Luckily, scientists started to deal with this problem anymore in the early 1970s, but the opinion of the society’s majority about their research work was sceptical. The first survey, which was concerned expressly with the negative effects of the television watching, was created by an American psychologist, Eli A. Rubinstein, in 1972. The results were very pessimistic, but the average people did not take it seriously. Ten years later Rubinstein repeated the survey, but the conclusion was not better than last time: children, who watched more television than the others, became more aggressive in the course of playing. However, the American and other governments just in the early 1990’s started to deal with this problem. Maybe ever the most extensive study of this topic was made by the Columbia University. It finished in 2007 and the investigators monitored the changes of habits of more than 700 families over 17 years. The director of the project, Jeffry Johnson shortly concluded his experiences. ‘The immoderate television watching can contribute to develop syndromes which cause verbal and physical aggression, sleeping problems, obesity and attention and study difficulties.’ Moreover, according to this survey the time, we spend watching television and our aggression level are directly proportional to one another. For example at the adults, who spent more than 3 hours watching television when they were 14 years old, the number of drastic actions were fivefold, than those people who were watching television at the most 1 hour in the same age. Maybe these results are dumbfounding, but we can’t leave out of consideration the fact, that the environment in which we live, our mental outfit and of course, that when and what kind of programme we are or were watching determine in large, how the television affect on us.

The misinforming television programmes often have a big share in influencing our way of thinking. I don’t think so, that if we can’t find out from a ‘sensationalist show’ (for example Favorit, Aktív or Fókusz), where Győzike spend his holiday with her new girlfriend, our deeds or worldview will change incredibly, but lot of films can very harmful, especially for young people, because they may give bad example for them. What is more, television programmes often dispossess kids of first hand experiences. It is a serious problem, because the observations are very important for the 8-12 year old age-group. It helps them form their own world view, develop relationships, friendships, and try to start their more or less independent life. This period determine how they can fit in the society and of course how they will react later the events of their life, which aren’t always fair or happy. However, the television programmes show children a complete, maybe isn’t exactly true world, in which is easier and more comfortable than in the concrete. Moreover, in these imaginative worlds, usually the reactions of the people are really very different from the real. The ‘bad boys’ are always rude, but instead of getting punishment, they usually get premium from their boss, who is also vulgar. At the same time, it isn’t only the parameter of the ‘bad boys’. Very often ‘good boys’ practice aggression and break the rules in order to catch the offenders. What is more, according to a survey, the aggressive scenes are in the most stressful period of the films. All of these things can issue in, that those children, who watch a lot of television, can become adults, who think, that the world in which we live is as dangerous as those ones we see in the movies. Moreover, these people overrate the chance that they fall prey to crime, and they think that their neighbourhood isn’t safe enough. The last two things emphatically point at the biggest disadvantage of the television aggression: it has very serious character formative effect. However, the governments all over the world try to fight against with several methods the negative effects of the television.

Nowadays everybody has more or less information about the negative effects of the aggressive, rude and misinforming television programmes, and luckily the governments try to do something against these immoral movies. After our country joined to the EU (European Union) in 2001, the Hungarian ORTT (National Radio and Television Establishment) in order to reduce these effects (and keep the general direction which was made by the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1989 and renewed by the EU in 1997), expanded a symbol system which has to use every television channel in Hungary. It means that every television programmes are in four categories: without age limit, age limit 12, age limit 16 and age limit 18. Moreover, before a programme, its category has to be shown in words and in writing, and until the number, a symbol have to be marked in one of the nooks of the screen. The American government had set earlier a symbol system, which was similar to the inland, but it wasn’t so successful than it was expected. Because of it in 1999 the V-chip was inducted in the USA. This is a small machine, which is attachable to the television, and it can filter out the drastic programmes having a special code. However, the

V-chips lived up to expectations neither. According to a survey, ‘the 40% of the American families have V-chip, but only the 17% of them use it’. What is more, some of them didn’t know how to use it. Now it seems, that the violence-chip wasn’t a successful try, but who knows what the future may hold in store? The American scientists and politicians may try to expand a new method, with which they can reduce the television aggression. On the other hand, the governments and television channels aren’t only responsible for the children’s more and more aggressive behaviour. According to professionals, the parents should better hark to what kind of media content their children run against. ‘The huge amount of stimuli, which the children’s minds get from the television, without elaboration and exploration is very harmful. If the family talks about the seen things, a brutal scene can’t cause any problem’ says Bettina Füleki psychologist. She believes that the parents try to devolve their own responsibility when they blame television companies for their children’s rising aggression level. However, after the computers spread and became daily incredibly fast, the brutal computer games may cause more serious problems than television programmes.

An 18 year old man, Devin Moore, was promoted to a police station in Alabama, because he had stolen a car. First he was co-operate, but some minutes later he got a gun from a policeman and shot down three people and he ran away with a police car. After his interception he said, that the life was like a video game; sometime everyone had to die. According to the lawyers of the victims, Moore isn’t the only one amenable of the murders. They think that the Take-Two Interactive Inc., the Walmart and GameStop shops and the Sony Computer Entertainment have to assume one part of the responsibility, because Moore was infatuated of the Grand Theft Auto computer game, and he merely tried out a situation with which he has already managed countless in the virtual world. This tragic story shows, that how dangerous can be a computer game. Moreover, we can’t leave out of consideration the fact, that in these days companies produce more and more games, like GTA. Luckily, similar to the television programmes a symbol system was expanded for computer games too.

An American company, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) setting the children’s interests before its own financial success, try to help the parents to make head of the labyrinth of video games. It is a ’non-profit, self-regulatory body that independently assigns ratings, enforces advertising guidelines, and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.’ This frame rates into 7 classes the games: EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), T (Teen), M (Mature), AO (Adults Only) and RP (Rating Pending). These classes are determined by 32 main aspects, in this way the rates accurately reveal what the game is in truth. So this symbol system helps the parents to find the best games for their children’s age.

After these negative effects we have to see, that the visual media has positive effects too. According to Steven Johnson, who has already written some books in this topic, we become cleverer, because the more complex a media content, the more complex thinking procession is necessary. Moreover the researchers of the Rochester University determined, that the people, who play video games can take more information and can better hark to the fast changing or far-away things. What is more, according to an other study, the women, who haven’t got as good visual abilities as men, after a short game with a three dimensional video game, can execute a visual test as good as men. Besides this, the visual media has very many other kinds of effects.

From the television or the Internet we can easily get as much information as we want. This procedure is faster and more comfortable, than reading books. It is a very useful thing in our running world in which most of the people haven’t got enough time to read carefully a profession book or go to a course. On the other hand, the effectiveness of learning from books depends on in large our own mental capacity. ‘More intelligent people can perfectly acquire the knowledge from only a written theme, but a spectacular presentation can stand the less intelligent people in good stead’, think Rene Webber, the researcher of the Santa Barbara University in California, who has already created some studies in Germany and in England in the topic of ‘cognitive and emotional effects of television and new technology media, especially new generation video games’. Moreover, the information, which we find on the internet can inconsistent and inexact, so if we need accurate data, we should expend time and tiredness on read a book, instead of using the Internet.

Last, but not least, let’s see a media genre with which we meet may the most, but we often don’t realise how much influence our every day life. It usually doesn’t have rude or aggressive part, but we can’t enunciate that it hasn’t got negative effect. The genre, I think is the advertisement. We meet them everywhere: in the cities, on the buses and trams, in the television, and of course on the Internet. They plead with everybody to buy the showed product, or try out a service. On the surface, there isn’t any problem with the advertisements. They seem to be only harmless short movies or smaller or bigger pictures, but there is very serious business interest behind them. What is more, the sometimes funny and kind, at other times scientific and objective advertisements next door to always suggest that we can’t live whole life without their product. These things are often popularized by famous actors, actresses, sportsmen or singers, because lots of people think, that, if a successful people use them, they can be only impressive. Moreover, the companies always pay attention to the public can see their advertisements very often. In this way, they put them into newspapers and magazines, near busy roads, between popular films in the television and on the main pages of successful web sites. Nevertheless, we have to see, that the advertisements (similar to the other media genre) have the biggest effect on young children. Companies often try to play upon their credulity and suggestibility in order to raise their own popularity and profit. Luckily (also similar to other genres), governments try to place within definite bounds the advertisements. For example in Hungary there is a codex, which was made by the Hungarian Advertisement League, and it determine, what is allowed and what isn’t allowed when someone make an advertisement. However, it has a very big mistake: it doesn’t pertain to everyone.

Taking all things into consideration, I think, that the effects of the visual media can be good, as well as bad. As I wrote in my memoir, lots of surveys and researches have been made by countless scientists all over the world; even so several of them go on different record. In my opinion, every part of the media, but especially the visual media affect on us in large. I think, that it can change our way of thinking, worldview and of course our every day life. On the other hand, I believe, that its character formative effect depends on only us. Every adult has to decide on his or her own, to what he or she gives credit and what television programmes, web sites and magazines he or she let his or her children watch. I hope, that in this way the negative effects of the visual media will be reduced, and its positive effects will be gained more ground.

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