PERCEIVED ROLE OF ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION IN SHAPING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR OF TEENAGERS
Television as an electronic medium of communication has evolved into a potent force to be reckoned with in the transmission of social values and norms in a civilised society. It has not only become a part of everyday life, but serves as a veritable source of information, education and entertainment by the reason of its dramatic and demonstrative powers. It has been noted by media scholars that in contemporary television programming, its focus is more on entertainment than for development purposes. Moreover, there are TV stations that have emerged with specialised programming in entertainment, called entertainment television. Examples are Black Entertainment Television (BET), Music Television (MTV), Channel ‘O, Mnet Series, Movie Magic, Entertainment Television (E!TV), etc. Also, it was observed that teenagers fall into the category of media audience that spend a lot of time watching TV. Therefore, it plays an important role in structuring their lives in some shape and form also leading to the likelyhood of forming false ideals. Therefore, the study sought to find out the frequency of teenagers’ exposure to entertainment TV; the kinds of entertainment programmes they watch; what they pay attention to in the programmes they watch; and how the entertainment programmes shape their world view concerning social behaviour in their environment. A dual-research design was employed (survey and focus group discussion). The questionnaire was used to collect data for the survey from a sample size of 339 respondents who are 100 Level undergraduate students of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State. The focus group discussion made use of the focus group discussion guide and a midget or tape recorder to collect data from 12 participants divided into two equal groups (male and female). The results of the study showed that teenagers frequently watched entertainment TV as represented by 81.9% of them who indicated so. It was also evident that there was a significant relationship between teenagers frequency of exposure to entertainment television and programmes, and its role in shaping their social behaviour. It was also noted that the influence of the programmes on the teenagers could be negative or positive depending on the individual teenager and the kind of programme he or she is exposed to. The study recommends that television entertainment programme developers and broadcasters should develop, produce and broadcast entertainment programmes with high positive values, while the negative social values should be de-emphasized.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The mass media, most especially television have gradually become a part of our daily lives, and sources of information, education and entertainment have been described as the primary functions of the media. Lasswell (1948) as cited in Folarin (2005, p.74) assigns three functions to the media:
- Surveillance of the Environment (the news function).
- Correlation of the different parts of the Enviroment (the editorial function).
- Transmission of the cultural heritage from one generation to the other (the cultural transmission function).
The focus of the researcher in this study is not only on the entertainment function of the media, but the role the entertainment media especially television, plays in shaping social behaviour among teenagers in the society. Stephenson (1967) a British psychologist, as cited in Folarin (2005, p.170), divides man’s activities into work and play. The former involving reality and production, while the latter deals with entertainment, relaxation or self satisfaction. He further says that people use mass communication more as play than as work, more for pleasure and entertainment than for information and serious work. Folarin (ibid) corroborates this view by saying that one constant criticism of television in Nigeria is its focus on entertainment rather than on development purposes.
There is no doubt that the impact of the media on young people’s lives is broadly considered within what is referred to as “media effects” debate which to a great extent focuses on the potentially negative impact of the media on young people’s lives: video violence, gambling, educational performance, mass consumerism, etc (Miles, 2000). Steele & Brown (1995) identifies three main reasons why media influence should be given a closer look:
- Young people spend more time with the mass media than they do in school or with their parents.
- The media are full of portrayals that glamorize risky adult behavior such as excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.
- Parents and other socialization agents have arguably shirked their responsibilities when it comes to directing youth away from risky forms of behavior; thereby allowing the media a more fundamental influence.
In the context of this discourse, many commentators opine that by the age of 18, an individual will have spent more time watching television than any other activity besides sleep (Miles & Anderson, 1999). However, Miles (2000, p.73) is of the view that:
It is widely assumed that young people are affected more directly and negatively by the media than any other age group, research actually indicates that young people between the ages of 14 and 24 actually form one of the groups who currently spend the least time watching television. This is a paradox that has often been neglected in the literature. Ironically, the mass media itself has a vested interest in exaggerating the impact it has on young people’s lives because media-hype simply makes good ‘copy.’
Regardless of the actual time young people spend in watching television and using other media, there is no doubt that the mass media have played and will continue to play an important role in structuring young people’s lives in some shape and form in a period of rapid social change (Miles, ibid).
The amount of media products consumed by young people has drastically expanded in recent years, allowing them to compose their own ‘media menu’ with their own preferences and likings. The youth itself is undergoing a period of rapid change, likewise the ways in which young people use the media. The advent of cable and satellite television has boosted TV viewing in recent years (Johnsson-Samaragdi, 1994). Osgerby (1998) further points out that the post-modern age brought with it the proliferation of media and information technologies which challenged traditional conceptions of time and space, symbolized most apparently by the global cultural flows and images evident in the programming of Music Television (MTV). MTV is well known as an entertainment television that airs not only music videos, but reality TV shows and other entertainment programmes. Auderheide (1986) describes MTV as offering not simply videos, but enviroment and mood.
The goal of MTV executive Bob Pittman, the man who designed the channel is simple: his job, he says is to ‘amplify the mood and include MTV in the mood.’ Young Americans he argues are ‘television babies’ particularly attracted to appeals to heart rather than head. ‘If you can get their emotions going,’ he says, ‘forget their logic, you’ve got ‘em…’ Music videos invent the world the represent. And the people whose ‘natural’ universe is that of shopping malls are eager to participate in the process. Watching music videos may be diverting, but the process that music videos embody, echo, and encourage- the constant re-creation of an unstable self is a full time job (Auderheide, 1986, p. 118).
The reference to MTV in this study (by the researcher) is because by observation, it is one of the most popular entertainment stations and is also on cable/satellite television. It has subsidiaries such as MTV Europe, MTV Asia and MTV Base which is generally for its African-American audience, mostly Africans. Moreover, Silverbird Television draws some of its programming from MTV base. Reference is also made to Black Entertainment television (BET), because of its high level of competition against MTV and its influence on black youths in America.
Based on information posted on 123HelpMe.com most BET midday programming is music videos, group in shows such as ‘Black Power’, ‘Rap City: the Basement’ and ‘106th and Park’ which is BET’s version of MTV Base’s popular ‘Total Request Live.’ A phenomenon that has been observed in all of these shows is that the music videos are targeted towards young black people between the ages of 13 and 25. The observations made by 123HelpMe.com website are:
- The music videos really are the main attraction with a party atmosphere in nearly every video and young physically attractive women in bikini tops and men in ‘wife-beaters’ (name of shirt) or no shirt at all.
- The performers are usually with a large group of people dancing with them. These large groups represent the groups of people that the typical black person hangs out with in social situations.
- In the music videos the performers are seen with extravagant surroundings, large amounts of jewelry on their persons and also their mouth (called a grill), money spray, especially the US dollars, and very expensive cars such as Hummers, Jaguars, PT Cruisers, Mercedes, etc. Shown as these are things that the normal black person that BET specifically targets cannot afford, especially the cars.
With all these ‘razz-ma-tazz’ on the airwaves, a lot of young people also want to have a feel of what is shown on television, which evidently they cannot afford. This leads them to engage in crimes, prostitution, etc, just to meet up. It is obvious that this fad is already taking hold of the Nigerian entertainment television industry.
Reimer (1995) posits that young people’s use of the mass media binds them together more than any social activity (and hence their relationship with social change). Young people could be said to be united through their pursuit of pleasure through the mass media. The media (or the people behind it) are skilled at knowing what will appeal to the mass teenagers and use skillful manipulation to get messages across, buy into an idea or product that communicates an idea – like the status of having the latest ipod, i-touch or cell phone. However, Côté & Allahar (1996) argue that the manner in which the mass media, especially television portray aspects of the outside world might be said to actively prevent young people from developing a critical consciousness that will allow them prioritize larger issues of personal and social responsibility.
Since they are bombarded with tantalizing images of the ‘good life,’ it is not surprising that the young are dispirited by the reality of their poor economic prospects… what lies at the heart of all this activity, however, is the fact that these media can sell young people some element of an identity they have been taught to crave… leisure industries such as music, fashion, and cosmetics have a largely uncritical army of consumers awaiting the next craze or fad. Each fad gives them a sense of identity, however, illusory or fleeting. This activity is tolerated or encouraged by larger economic interests because the army of willing consumers also serves as a massive reserve of cheap labour. Furthermore, distracting young people with these trivial identity pursuits prevents them from protesting against their impoverished condition (Côté & Allahar, 1996, p.148).
1.1.1 Teenagers in Brief
Teenagers are also referred to as adolescents from the age of 13-19, and this is a period of transition: biological, psychological, social, economic; whereby they become wiser, more sophisticated and better able to make their own decisions. They become more self-aware, more independent, and more concerned about what the future holds (Steinberg, 2005).
Steinberg (ibid) further states that there are three fundamental changes that define this period: the biological – the onset of puberty; cognitive – the emergence of more advanced thinking abilities and the social – the transition into new roles in the society. There are five sets of developmental issues paramount during adolescence: identity, autonomy, intimacy, sexuality and achievement. These are sets of psycho-social issues that represent basic developmental challenges that all people face as they grow and change: discovering and understanding who they are as individuals (identity); establishing a healthy sense of independence (autonomy); forming close and caring relationships with other people (intimacy); expressing sexual feelings and enjoying physical contacts with others (sexuality); and being successful and competent members of society (achievement).
George-Okoro (2008:11) opines that “One of the most important features of childhood and adolescence is the development of an identity. As children shape their behaviour and values, they may look to heroes and role models for guidance. They may identify the role models they may wish to emulate based on possession of certain skills or attributes. While the child may not want to be exactly like the person, he/she may see possibilities in that person.”
Teenagers are generally at a point in their lives when they are just starting to seriously break dependence on their parents, at least as far as their own identity is concerned. The media gives them a more neutral and less threatening frame of reference from which to relate to other teenagers. This is because the media is something that most teenagers see the same way. Unfortunately, because most teens are still looking for their own identities, they are a lot more susceptible to suggestion and all the perceived peer pressure from the media can overwhelm what they have already formed of their own identities based on someone else’s opinions, what they should think and feel. Without realizing it, they can start picking up someone else’s opinions instead of forming their own with the way the media is today (Wikipedia, 2009).
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
It cannot be over emphasized that the television media have taken a center stage in our daily activities especially in the 21st Century with the emergence and consolidation of different television stations and service providers. It has been observed in cities that satellite and cable television stations have a greater amount of audience than the local television stations.
However, this study wants to examine the role television, with particular attention on entertainment television, plays in shaping social behaviour among teenagers. It is evident through previous researches that with ample television stations at their finger tips these young people spend more time watching television. A conservative estimate has being given of an average American teenager who spends 2.5 hours per day watching television. The young people spend an average of 16-18 hours watching television per week, starting from the age 2 and over half of all 15-16 year olds have seen the majority of the most popular recent R-rated movies (Wakefield, et al, 2003).
Furthermore, from previous researches carried out on the effects of television on teenagers, it has been discovered that most of the programmes teenagers watch are entertainment-related, for instance movies, musical videos, soap operas, etc. The influence of these programmes on teenagers may not be immediate or outrightly effective due to some other variables like family, social group, peer group, etc. Nevertheless, the influence might be insidious and lead the teenagers to building false ideals and negative social behaviour. The more they expose themselves to entertainment television with reference to the amount of time some of them put into watching entertainment programmes, the greater the chance for them to develop a world view and a perception of reality similar to what they watch over time on entertainment TV. Therefore, this study attempts to examine whether the entertainment television programmes shape to a large extent the social behaviour of the teenagers.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
- To determine how frequent teenagers watch entertainment TV.
- To ascertain the kind of entertainment programmes teenagers watch on the TV stations.
- To examine the volume of entertainment programmes they watch on TV stations.
- To establish what the teenagers pay attention to in the entertainment programmes they watch.
- To find out how entertainment programmes of TV stations shape teenagers’ world view concerning social behaviour in their enviroment.
- To explore the perception of teenagers on the role of entertainment TV in shaping their social behaviour.
- To generate knowledge for further studies in this area.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- How frequent do teenagers watch entertainment TV?
- What kind of entertainment programmes do teenagers watch on the TV stations?
- What is the volume of entertainment programmes teenagers watch on the TV stations?
- What do the teenagers pay attention to in the entertainment programmes they watch?
- How do entertainment programmes of the TV stations shape teenagers world view concerning social behaviour in their enviroment?
- What is the perception of teenagers on the role of entertainment TV in shaping their social behaviour?
Hypothesis 1: Entertainment television plays an insignificant role in shaping the social behaviour of teenagers.
Hypothesis 2: Teenagers frequency of exposure to entertainment television plays an insignificant role in shaping their social behaviour.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
It has been observed in recent times that the entertainment industry in Nigeria is blossoming especially in its dominance in the contents of the programming of most television stations in Nigeria, especially the major cities (Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc). Therefore, this study seeks to draw the attention of media practitioners and owners (especially television) to the vital role television plays as an agent of socialization. Having this fact in mind, television media practioners and owners will be mindful of the kind of entertainment programmes they air, most especially at prime time, knowing fully the vulnerable and gullible nature of teenagers.
A research into how entertainment television shapes the social behaviour of teenagers whether positively or negatively appears novel, especially in television media studies. This is a contemporary issue which scholars in the field of media studies have paid little or no attention to. Therefore, part of the uniqueness of this study is that it will be of immense significance to researchers in the academia in the 21st Century. It does not only aim at contributing to knowledege but also providing a foundational basis for further studies into the socialization role of entertainment television.
Nonetheless, parents of teenagers and also teenagers who are the at the heart of this study will understand fully the positive and negative roles entertainment television plays in contributing to shaping their social behaviour in their immediate enviroment. It will also avail counsellors viable information on where and how teenagers draw inferences for their social behaviours. This is because teenagers might not only behave in a certain manner because of mere peer influence, but also from what they watch on television, especially from people or celebrities they see as role models. It is also believed that the findings of this study will be an added resource to available literature and will be used to promote informed decision-making and policies by the regulating bodies of the broadcast and entertainment industry.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The respondents for this study is restricted to 13-19 year olds at the first year level at Covenant University. Covenant University was selected because at the point of entry; most of the students fall within the age bracket needed for the study. Then, the students at this level could easily and appropriately answer the questions in the questionnaire, and also, they have energy needed to power the TV sets, so they are exposed to the core variable.
1.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
There is no research or study without its own unique limitations, therefore the short comings of this research are:
- Due to the novelty of this study, there was insufficient relevant materials (journals, books, etc) for the literature review. Some journals are not accessible online and acquiring them could prove impossible considering the tedious procedure involved especially through online purchase.
- There was also reluctance and lack of cooperation on the part of the respondents in answering the questions in the questionnaire appropriately. This of course proved a serious limitation to this study.
- The fact that the method of study was survey and focus group discussion, means that it was mainly the opinion of the respondents that was ellicited, the sincerity of the respondents may not be known or determined.
- Another major limitation to the study is the fact that the study is about teenagers’ perception to the role entertainment television plays in shaping their social behaviour. The sample population for the study was taken from Covenant University undergraduate students (100 Level). The representativeness of this sample may affect external validity and also the findings of the study cannot be easily generalised beyond the population of study (Covenant University).
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS
- Entertainment Television: this usually refers to television stations who specialize in giving its audience full fledge entertainment or whose programming content is largely dominated by entertainment programmes. This evolved in America and has become popular around the world e.g. MTV (Music Television), Black Entertainment Television (BET), Silverbird Television, etc.
- Social behaviour: in this study examines communication, values, dressing, social interaction, etc, among teenagers who fall within the age group of 13-19 years.
- Teenagers: they are also referred to as adolescents. This is a group of people who pass through the transitional stage of physical and mental development that occurs between childhood and adulthood. The teenage years are from ages 13 to 19. In this study, teenagers and young people or youngsters are used interchangably.
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