CHILDREN LEARN BEHAVIORS FROM OBSERVED BEHAVIORS
The idea that people learn behaviors, values, and attitudes from one another by observation, imitation, and modeling, called social learning theory, dates back to the 1960’s. The original research, by Dr. Albert Bandura and colleagues, focused on how children learned aggression by observing adults. Their research found that after viewing adults acting aggressively or non-aggressively, children were more likely to imitate the adult’s behavior and even find novel ways to behave in those manners.
Further research done by Bandura found that the behavior is more likely to be repeated if reinforced. This reinforcement can be from watching the behaviors and consequences of those behaviors from someone they identify with. The people with which children identify can be in the media.[i]
OBSERVED BEHAVIOR CAN COME FROM THE MEDIA
The media, especially television, has given children more access to observable behavior.[ii] Recent studies on the effects of televised media on children have found:
Viewing reality television affects young girls’ views of aggression. Young girls who viewed reality television and found it realistic and desirable saw more value in social aggression. They also found that viewing social aggression was correlated to a girl’s desire to behave aggressively in the future.[iii] What the girls viewed on television impacted their behavior.
Viewing a random selection of American television programs featuring acts of helping, sharing, giving, or donating caused adults and children to encode and retain the prosocial acts in their memories through repeated exposure. They then matched that behavior when faced with real-life situations.[iv]
SMARTER MEDIA CAN CHANGE CONCUSSION REPORTING BEHAVIOR
Television is now on par with “traditional agencies of socialization,” such as the home, family, school, and peer groups.[v] It is important for journalists to realize that, for a child, viewing television is not as passive as it may seem. Children are using “formal features of action, pace, visual techniques, and verbal and nonverbal auditory events to understand and make use of the content.”[vi] Additionally, children tend to remember televised news better than the comparable printed news – so journalists on TV have an especially important role.[vii]
Given 89 of the top 100 broadcasts in 2018 were sporting events, the media has a tremendous influence on our sports concussion culture. If children watch reporters accurately identify and concussions and discuss that they are a serious injury that requires a specific response, there is good reason to believe they will be more likely to behave appropriately when confronted by concussions in their own lives. Research suggests that if the values are the same across programs, there is an increased likelihood that the values represented will impact the child's values. [viii] It is therefore important that all journalists are equipped with accurate and consistent information.
Concussions and brain trauma are serious, and if journalists take them seriously, children will too. Openly discussing concussions will lessen the stigma. Accurately identifying the signs will help children to recognize those signs in their teammates and friends. By reporting what you see, a child will do the same in the future.
[iii] Behm-Morawitz, E., Lewallen, J., & Miller, B. (2016). Real Mean Girls? Reality Television Viewing, Social Aggression, and Gender Related Beliefs Among Female Emerging Adults. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(4), 340-355.
[iv] Ng, Y.-L. (2016). More than Social-Cultural Influences: A Research Agenda for Evolutionary Perspectives on Prosocial Media Effects. Review of General Psychology, 20(3), 317-335.
[v] Berry, G. L. (2003). Developing Children and Multicultural Attitudes: The Systemic Psychosocial Influences of Television Portrayals in a Multimedia Society. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9(4), 360-366.
[vi] Berry, G. L. (2003). Developing Children and Multicultural Attitudes: The Systemic Psychosocial Influences of Television Portrayals in a Multimedia Society. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9(4), 360-366.
[vii] Walma van der Molen, J. H., & van der Voot, T. H. A. (1997). Children's Recall of Television and Print News: A Media Comparison Study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 82-91.
[viii] Berry, G. L. (2003). Developing Children and Multicultural Attitudes: The Systemic Psychosocial Influences of Television Portrayals in a Multimedia Society. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9(4), 360-366.