Television and the Autistic Child: Effects of Aggressive Programming Nicolette Stoltman University of Phoenix Com 220 With few exceptions, the information on the effect of television on children has focused on normal (i. e. , nonhandicapped) populations. The intention of this essay is to explore the impact of the medium of television on Autistic children because their use of and reaction to television may differ from that of the larger population. This essay will provide an overview of the research that has examined television and the Autistic child (the definition of “Autistic” varies along a spectrum of included disorders.
Common markers for an Autistic disorder are oppositional behavior, over activity, aggressivity and emotional and cognitive ability). Current research assumes that in order for television content to affect a viewer, the viewer must be exposed to content, accept the message and adopt behaviors or attitudes portrayed and comprehend the content in some degree. A literature review located only two recent studies that examined the viewing habits of Autistic children. Surveys (Donohue, 1998; Fracchis et al. , 2001) show that Autistic children watch more aggressive programs and prefer aggressive over nonaggressive television characters.
Viewing habits comparisons reveled that Autistic children watched more television than the normal child. Children with Autism are known withdraw to television. Autistic children watched more physically violent programs and cartoons and named those programs as their favorite than did the normals. Both programming choices contain high-levels of aggressive behavior many Autistic children find violent or aggressive content visually stimulating. Furthermore, Autistic children viewed cartoons more hours. Cartoons offer the Autistic child a skewed view of the real world. Some of these children se cartoon viewing as a coping skill, as some are unable to handle real problems and work out issues. The literature of these two studies has conclusively documented the differences in viewing habits between Autistic and normal children. Despite the seeming vulnerability of Autistic children to televisions’ adverse effects, there has been little research bearing on this issue. A review of the recent literature located only investigation that was relevant to this topic, an early study by Walters and Willows (1994) that showed Autistic children became more aggressive toward toys after viewing a videotape of an aggressive model.
The study suggests Autistic children became more aggressive following exposure to aggressive cartoons, but in the latter instance the control cartoons produced the same effect. Autistic children appear to become more aggressive or noncompliant following cartoons. Autistic children also experienced irritability and withdrawal; however, the problematic is not al all clear from existing data. Autistic children are known to absorb and mimic from their surroundings. External stimuli, either visual or auditory, affects the Autistic child more profoundly their normal peers.
Arousal rather than modeling mechanisms seem to be involved, but further research is needed to clarify what television stimulus, child and setting characteristics determine the impact (Walter & Willows, 1994). The Walters and Willows (1994) study also provided information, researched by Silverman, regarding Autistic children and the effects of nonaggressive television. [pic] The study noted that altruistic behaviors increased for the children exposed to the prosocial television relative to those who did not. This facilitation of altruism was more pronounced for those who were above average on baseline measures of physical aggression.
Verbal aggression (e. g. , threats, teases, name calling) and aggression toward objects decreased in Autistic children exposed to nonaggressive programming. [pic] Symbolic aggression decreased in the physically aggressive children who were exposed to the nonaggressive programming compared to those who were not. For reasons that may be unique to the Autistic child, the children reacted to the moralistic tone of the programming. Their antisocial behavior reduced significantly. This study showed that nonaggressive, prosocial; television programming can be a medium for shaping positive social behavior in an Autistic child.
Autistic children’s perceptions of the reality of television content have been identified as an important cognitive mediator or reactivity. This may be due to the child’s limited, or malfunctioning, reasoning centers in the brain. In the case of aggressive television content, research has shown that the belief that the television aggression is real (not staged) enhances the likelihood of post exposure aggression (Atkin, 1993; Fesbach, 1986; Sawin, 1991). Autistic children were more likely than their normal peers to perceive television programs as accurate depictions of the real world.
They also assumed commercials as truthful. [pic] Autistic children have difficulty processing information as real or false. Autistic children generally believe what they see and/or hear as real. It is reasonable to speculate that these perceptions may render Autistic children more susceptible than normal peers to the influences of television content and commercials. In summary, research has shown that Autistic children watch more television overall and more aggressive programs than their normal peers. Autistic children are more likely to believe in the accuracy of television violence and advertising claims.
There is preliminary evidence indicating that Autistic children can be taught to be more critical and aware of what they see, potentially defusing some of television’s impact. Like their normal peers, watching aggressive programming is related to a greater willingness provoke violence amongst other children. Moreover, most Autistic children become more aggressive in naturalistic settings after watching violent programming and cartoons. Nonaggressive programming was shown to enhance the social functioning of the Autistic child. This is sometimes the case that nonaggressive but suspenseful cartoon produce more aggressive behavior than ggressive cartoons. The information provided in this essay should not be generalized to other populations or media material. Also, these statements do not assume the long-term effect of exposure to television. This essay emphasizes the point that Autistic children often react to television in ways that are different from nonhandicapped children. There is a belief for a need for further research on how television is used, comprehended and reacted to by Autistic children as well as by children with other special needs. References Atkin, C. 1993) Effects of television advertising on special needs children. New York, Atherton Press. Atkin, C. (1996) Effects of television and the Autistic child. New York, Alterton Press Brown, T, Bryant A, and Carveth, S. (2001) Perception and effects of television on the young mind. Journal of Spectrum Disorders, 36, 18-33. Donohue,T. R. (1998) Television’s impact on emotionally disturbed children. Child Study Journal, 8, 187-201. Hearold, S. (1996) Effects of television on social behavior. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Feshbach, S. (1986) The role of fantasy in response to television.
Journal of Social Issues, 32(4), 71-85. Fracchis, G. et al. , (2001) Viewing habits and aggressive behavior in the Autistic child. Journal of Spectrum Disorders, 31, 163-169. Sawin, D. B. (1991) The fantasy-reality distinction in televised violence. Urbana, IL, University of Illinois Press. Silverman, L. (2001) Observed behaviors on television. Journal of Communication, 2. 4, 36-42 Walters, R. H. and Willows, D. C. (1994) Imitative behavior of disturbed and nondisturbed children following exposure to aggressive and nonaggressive models. Attention: Journal for Autistic Research, 39, 79-91.