Survey: Children Think TV is Teaching Them Bad Habits
Feb. 27, 1995
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Most older children think television encourages them to experiment with sex too soon, treat their parents badly and tell lies, according to a nationwide poll released today.
Youths ages 10 to 16 were asked to describe how television shapes their values in the telephone survey released by the advocacy group Children Now.
``I think it pressures people my age,'' said 14-year-old Rayelyn Rodriguez of South Gate, Calif. ``They think if they see it on TV, they want to go do it too.''
Of 750 respondents, 76 percent said television too often depicts sex before marriage. Some 62 percent said sex on TV influences their peers to have sexual relations when they are too young. And about two-thirds said shows that portray hostile families encourage young viewers to disrespect their parents.
The survey had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.
``With a show like `Married ... With Children,' kids talk back to their parents and they always hit them up for money and stuff,'' said Jesse Lunn, 13, of Mission Viejo.
Children Now President James P. Steyer argues that Hollywood should create shows that depict responsible behavior.
``We're not suggesting that television should be the scapegoat for all these heavy issues relating to kids and values, but they can't be a scofflaw either,'' Steyer said. ``This is a positive challenge, not an indictment.''
Television producers disagreed on whether it's their role to teach values. Some said they already operate with values in mind.
``We are acutely aware that we help define or shape the values of children,'' said Matt Williams, co-creator of ABC's top-rated ``Home Improvement.'' ``We consciously write the boys on the show a little more innocent than the world really is. They're not going upstairs and having sexual intercourse with teen-agers.''
Others said teaching values was better left to parents.
``Television is entertainment,'' said Leslie Ray, executive producer of ``Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.'' ``It's not our responsibility to police what children watch. Our job is to entertain.''
The survey also found that children think there are enough minority role models on television, but a study released together with the survey didn't give much support for their belief.
Some 63 percent of the children polled said there are enough positive minority role models on television. But the study found that 80 percent of children on commercial television are white, and only 2 percent Hispanic.
Overall, the study of 80 broadcast and cable programs said television's depiction of kids is out of touch with the lives of real children: in addition to the ethnic imbalance, television children have fewer family ties, less interest in school, less religious faith and more money than real kids.
``If you watch a number of the teen shows, the lack of awareness of a larger world is striking,'' said Katharine E. Heintz-Knowles, the author of the study and an assistant professor of communications at the University of Washington.