Violence, lies and deception—all current themes that are weaved throughout ‘adult’ programming. Except, it isn’t just restricted to the adult viewership, these same themes are too interwoven into teen and tween drama. However, it is a matter of encoding and decoding the messages within that directly impact the ‘gullible’ audience. Or do they?
In just one year, one thousand murders, rapes and assaults are viewed by adolescence through television shows—thus desensitizing the individual to real life violence. (Dworjan.T, 2015)
From this notion, a current anxiety is developed that children and adolescence will display forms of violent behaviour—the drip-drip effect –such as cyber bullying, gossiping and intentional malice due to violence seen on television.
This anxiety is caused by the increasing forms of television drama aimed at pre-teens and teens—thus the victims of media effects—where television is seen as a dangerous form of media.
This is exemplified within the hit teen drama show ‘Pretty Little Liars’. This show, first airing in 2010 derived from the book series by Sara Shepard, it quickly appealed to the teen/young adult audience through its relatability to the protagonists and setting. However, this show entails prominent themes of mystery, violence and crime which is said to influence violent behaviour in its impressionable young viewers.
“Children under 18 are not mature enough to understand that this is brainwashing kids into thinking this stuff is acceptable but it’s demoralizing.” (Matka, 2013)
Evidently, 68% of the viewership of television drama believes that it is the nature of girls to be catty where 78% believe that gossip is a normal aspect in life.(Media Education Foundation, 2013)
The social learning theory developed by Alfred Bandura conduced an experiment to demonstrate the impressionable nature of children and adolescence where a Bobo doll was used as a violence implemented prop after the children were shown a violent video.
“Studies have shown that girls who watch these violent reality TV shows have a higher incidence of bullying, cyberbullying and other bad behaviour than girls that do not.” (Waldron. S, 2013)
However, is it really the television drama shows that are influencing this increase in teenage violent and malice behaviour?
Not everyone is influenced identically by the same media, rather it is dependent on the individuals context and how they decode messages imbedded within it.
Originally, it was believed—through Aristotle’s model of communication—that from the speaker, speech was developed it was then transferred to the audience to cause an effect. However, this media effect model identifies each individual as receiving the same information resulting in the same effect-thus a non-problematic flow of messages.
Although, there are always problems with encoding and decoding messages—identified as ‘noise’. It wasn’t until that Shannon-Weaver mathematical model was developed in 1949 that societal factors (noise) such as conversation, attention and distraction where identified as an influence of one’s ability to decode a message—resulting in a different message being interpreted.
The feedback loop of communication later describes elements of perception, experience and attitude impacting the messages transmitted between both encoder and decoder thus highlighting that it is in fact what the audience does with the media not what the media does to the people.
With this notion, Pretty Little Liars are not to blame for the violent behaviour of children and adolescence. This societal anxiety is completely unjustified–it is merely this audiences context and interpretation of the media that alters the audience’s response.
Adri (sourced from Bandura. A), 2012, ‘TV and aggression, The Bobo Doll experiment’, image, War Play in west room, viewed 20 April 2015 <http://warplayinwest.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/tv-and-agression-bobo-doll-experiment.html>
Dworjan. T, 2015, ‘TV effect on Teenagers’, Love to Know, 2015, viewed 16 April 2015 <http://teens.lovetoknow.com/TV_Effect_on_Teenagers>
Maharana,K, 2015, ‘Pretty Little Liars season 5 big A reveal: Major clue by show creator Marlene King sparks twins theory again’, image, International Business Times, viewed 20 April 2015 <http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/pretty-little-liars-season-5-big-reveal-major-clue-by-show-creator-marlene-king-sparks-twin-1491991>
Matka, 2013, ‘Throw your morals in the trash’, Pretty Little Liars- Tantalizing mystery plays up glamour, sexiness of teen life, review blog, 28 March 2013, viewed 16 April 2015 <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/pretty-little-liars/user-reviews/adult#>
Media Education Foundation, 2013, ‘Reality TV’s Impact on Bullying and Student Behaviour’, CyberBullyHome, viewed 15 April 2015 <http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/04-25-12-reality-tv.html>