Children’s acceptance of the ‘norms’ that surround them and their desire to comply with them is essential to socialization. Socialization itself is the development stage during which children’s habits, social skills, values and morals and even their motives become entrenched. Family, school, peer relationship, religion and the media as a whole all influence this process. There are however, differing theories about whether and to what extent, moral codes can and do alter or change as children get older.
The modern socialization process differs somewhat to the past as the media plays a large and very visible role in society. The mass media which includes screen, print, audio and interactive multimedia has a huge impact, in the twenty first century, on the developing child.
Without realizing it, children are persuaded that the decisions they make are their own and are based on rational and logical thought. Interestingly though, it is the other influences of family, school and religion that will guide children and which are important in ensuring that the media has a positive impact despite its negative connotations. The media is a tool for education, information and entertainment as long as children minimize any destructive interaction by filtering according to their beliefs. This is often where the problems start for children without a stable family structure in place.
Children automatically associate with characters they see on TV and make self-assessments. Music they hear often places them in categories such as ‘rock’, ‘goth’ and so on which affects their image or the image they feel obliged to portray. Body image, vital to self-esteem, can be affected by what children perceive as disapproving and negative. The only way for them to be liked is to emulate their on screen or print heroes.
The stabilizing influence exerted by family and school, etc allows children to cope with the barrage of so-called ‘inappropriate material’ in print, on screen and over the airwaves. Obviously, children who do not have these secure relationships with their families, religion and school may be more inclined to accept any negative, persuasive elements as they are unable to filter the unfavorable issues and peer pressure bears down more on these children.
Today, we have adolescents who ‘chat’ online and ‘meet’ friends. Some children whose socialization skills are not ingrained have expectations of fulfilling relationships whereas they only endanger themselves. This reinforces the concept that the media must be managed in terms of family and other figures of authority. The media then becomes a secondary mechanism in the socialization process.
All the forms of media are crucial in the development of a healthy, well-rounded individual but in order for the media to be constructive and not destructive, social ‘standards and role models need to be embedded into the system. Those children who do not have family structures in place do need something to protect them.
A Child's World McGraw Hill