In Pakistan, majority households have cable television. According to statistics provided by Anjum Zia in “Cable Television Watching Habits of the Youth in Pakistan”, more than 80% of the young population have access to cable television. Cable television was first introduced in early 1980 in Karachi, it “was a small scale network in basement of a building, providing only 3 to 5 channels including PTV” (Ali & Farooq, 2012). It was initiated by small entrepreneurs who had installed a small control room in the basement, wired to every loft in the building, however, this framework was intended to showcase English and Indian movies. The landscape of media and the media content delivery changed when former military general and president of Pakistan, Perviaz Musharaf, ousted Nawaz Sharif in bloodless coup. Before the era of Musharraf, media contents were limited in Pakistan with only the state television, PTV being accessible to every household in the country. The military regime wanted to combat Indian media power as Indian media was far superior to the media of Pakistan. Resultantly, it prompted Musharraf to introduce Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority or PEMRA in 2002, which salient feature was to “facilitate and promote a free, fair and independent electronic media.” (Ali & Farooq, 2012) The introduction of PEMRA opened the broadcasting market in Pakistan, thus beginning the boom of cable television in Pakistan as well. With 95 satellite television licensed by PEMRA, more than 2,000 cable TV operators registered under PEMRA to operate and broadcast the media contents through cables by satellite. Therefore, every Pakistani household with cable television had access to vast array of contents by TV channels either from abroad especially India or within the country. These contents by TV channel included cartoons, movies and TV series. However, with unlimited access to different TV channels and its content there was limited control over them. Cable television, no matter how entertaining it became for household residents, but when it comes to filtering the content and censoring some channel, the television user has no control. Every resident has access to television in their household which includes adults and minors. Children are more prone to television than adults. However, in Pakistan adult supervision in regards to TV content is minimal as it has been observed in a research by Anjum Zia that there is a less parental control whenever a child views a content on television. The media contents that peaks children interest especially preschool children interests are predominately cartoons but they also find other media contents of interest as well such as movies and TV serials. There is always a liability that preschool children would not only adhere to cartoon TV channels as their curiosity will push them to watch contents which are forbidden to them. Since, there is lack of adult supervision, such media contents can alter their behavior. However, even the media contents broadcasted by TV channels which are especially designed for preschool children such as cartoons, movies and TV series can alter their traits as well. The limited control on viewership of cable television contents on preschool children can have a negative impact on their learning and cognitive skills.
The aim of the research is to examine whether cable television contents – cartoons, movies or TV serials, can alter the learning and cognitive skills on preschool children, specifically aged 7 or below and to identify the lack of parental supervision and lack of control of the contents which results in negative impact on preschool children. The study focuses on children under the age of 7, their television viewing habits, interest level and behavioral changes. Parent’s role in selecting screen content and preferable leisure time activities for their children. Teachers who closely examine the learning and cognitive development of children, their progress and participation in class.
TV Program and Children
There is solid confirmation that children aged over 2 gain their learning from TV programs. Research on television viewership by children showed that electronic media have capable effects on the lives of contemporary children. “With advances in technology such as larger screens that provide images in high definition, three dimensional surround sound, and greater possibilities for interaction, the power of media will likely only increase for the foreseeable future. The influences can be both for good and for ill.” (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2003) Tammo H. A. Bijmolt, Wilma Claassen and Britta Brus in their research, “Children’s Understanding of TV Advertising: Effects of Age, Gender, and Parental Influence” (1998) stated that “There has been a general concern of parents and other societal actors, that TV programming may have a negative, intended or unintended, influence on children.” Lynette Kohn Friedrich and Aletha Huston in their research “Aggressive and Prosocial Television Programs and the Natural Behavior of Preschool Children” (1973) observed ninety-three preschool children in which they were shown three types of television programs concluded that, “for those children, the group who saw the aggressive programs showed more interpersonal aggression than those who saw the neutral programs. There were no effects of television programs on the aggressive behavior of children who were initially below the median in aggression. Children exposed to the prosocial programs showed higher levels of task persistence and somewhat higher levels of rule obedience and delay tolerance than those in the neutral condition.”
In spite of the fact that the literatures highlight essential aspects of TV programming and child social development, data on this situation on local setting is constrained. Therefore, it is critical to take a gander at how the social advancement of the preschool children in Pakistan might be impacted by TV programming of cable television which is easily accessible in every household.
Time Spent On Watching TV
Wendy L. Josephson mostly used child’s time spent on television as variable in his research to determine learning and cognitive process by stating that, “At different ages, children watch and understand television in different ways, depending on the length of their attention span, the way in which they process information, the amount of mental effort they invest, and their own life experiences.” (1995) These factors will be examined to gain an experience of how cable TV influences preschool children in Pakistan.
Josephson also concluded in his research regarding excessive viewership of television that, “the viewing patterns children establish as toddlers will influence their viewing habits throughout their lives.” (1995) Same can be said about preschool children in Pakistan who are disposed to watching cable television more excessively.
The study is based on ‘Cultivation Theory’ by George Gerbner and Larry Gross. Cultivation Theory expresses that high-frequency viewers of TV are more vulnerable to media messages and the belief that they are genuine and authentic. Gerbner and Gross explains in their discovery of their theory in “Living with Television: The Violence Profile about Exposure to Television” (1976), “Television is a medium of the socialization of most people into standardized roles and behaviors. Its function is in a word, enculturation”. Overwhelming viewers of TV are believed to be ‘cultivating’ attitudes that the world made by TV is a precise portrayal of their present reality. The theory proposes protracted viewing of TV can have a tendency to prompt a specific view about violence in the world. Gerbner and Gross in their research on theory suggested that many times viewers were unaware of the level to which they enthrall media, many times viewing themselves as moderate viewers when, in fact, they themselves were heavy viewers. The Cultivation Theory fits this study because it is incalculably useful in understanding the elements which include: observation and imitation. Observation as in pay attention to preschool children, not just to see but to attend to them, to learn from them when they do or say something whereas imitation to see how it benefits the child and the behavior is likely to be simulated.
Ali, U. M., & Farooq, M. (2012). Direct to Home Television Scope in Pakistan. Retrieved from University of Management Sciences: https://www.umt.edu.pk/icobm2012/pdf/2C-70P.pdf
Bijmolt, T. H., Claassen, W., & Brus, B. (1998). Children’s Understanding of TV Advertising: Effects of Age, Gender and Parental Influence. Retrieved from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tammo_Bijmolt/publication/227135980_Children%27s_Understanding_of_TV_Advertising_Effects_of_Age_Gender_and_Parental_Influence/links/0912f509bf5778d67d000000/Childrens-Understanding-of-TV-Advertising-Effects-of-Age-Gend
Friedrich, L. K., & Stein, A. H. (1973). Aggressive and Prosocial Television Programs and the Natural Behavior of Preschool Children. Retrieved from JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1165725
Gerbner, G., & Gross , L. (1976). Living With Television: The Violence Profile. Retrieved from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/L_Gross/publication/22223200_Living_With_Television_The_Violence_Profile/links/59de58b4a6fdcca0d32041ff/Living-With-Television-The-Violence-Profile.pdf
Josephson, W. L. (1995, February). Television Violence: A Review Of The Effects On Children Of Different Ages. Retrieved from Semantic Scholar: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bb5f/df3df5ae89dedbe1be05341b3ca8884ad7a6.pdf
Kirkorian, H. L., Wartella, E. A., & Anderson, D. R. (2003, January 18). Media and Young Children’s Learning. Retrieved from Princton University: http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/18_01_03.pdf
Zia, A. (2012). Cable Television Watching Habits of the Youths in Pakistan. Retrieved from Punjab University: http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/english/previous_pdf/by%20Anjum%20%20Zia.pdf