Media influences on pro-social behaviour
Friedrich and Stein (1973) studied American preschool children, who watched episodes of a pro-social television programme called Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood. These children remembered much of the pro-social information contained in the programmes, and they behaved in a more helpful and cooperative way than did children who watched other television programmes with neutral or aggressive content. They became even more helpful if they role-played pro-social events from the programmes.
Lovelace and Huston (1983) suggested three types of pro-social programming.
1 Pro-social behaviour only, e.g. Sprafkin et al. (1975) showed TV episodes to 6-yearolds, after which they had the chance to help some distressed puppies. Those children who watched a boy rescuing a puppy spent longer helping than those who watched a programme where no helping was involved. This shows that they imitated specific acts they had seen.
2 Pro-social conflict resolution. More typically pro-social programmes include conflict resolution. Paulson (1974) reported mixed effects of a Sesame Street programme that showed pro-social resolutions of anti-social behaviours.
3 Conflict without resolution. This may be better for older children, and requires someone to discuss the conflict with the child.
• Messages presented in an artificial environment may not generalise to real-life and are situation-specific.
• Children may model the anti-social behaviours that are resolved instead of the resolution.
Media influences on anti-social behaviour
Correlational studies Robinson and Bachman (1972) found a positive correlation in adolescent self-reports of the number of TV hours watched and amounts of aggressive behaviour. Wiegman et al. (1992) followed 400 Dutch secondary school pupils over a period of three years, and found that positive correlations between watching television violence and aggressive behaviour disappeared if initial levels of aggression were taken into account. Field experiments Parke et al. (1977) looked at the effect of violent and non-violent films on Belgian and American male juvenile delinquents. Aggression increased on some measures in the ‘violent-film’ group but on other measures increased only in those who were naturally high in aggression.
Natural experiments In Williams’ (1985) study of Canadians who had their first exposure to TV (the residents of ‘Notel’) it was found that levels of aggression increased physically and verbally. Charlton (1998) has documented the effects of Western TV on St Helena and as yet observed no increase in violence.
Longitudinal study Huesmann et al. (1984) related the amount of television watched and levels of aggressiveness in some young children with the same information when the children were older. The amount of television violence watched at a young age was correlated with later aggressiveness (measured by the number of criminal convictions by the age of 30) and also with the amount of violent TV watched. This suggests that watching violent TV may be a cause of aggression and also an effect.