Harlow Media

Monday, February 20, 2006




(Note: Any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors repeated in this text are the candidate's own.)

Topic: Children and Television

Specific area of study indicated on candidate's notes Cover Sheet: "Children TV toys advertising & gender roles.

1. Give an account of, and evaluate the research methods you used to investigate the relationship between children and television.

[45 marks]

Investigation of the influence of TV is a something researchers have concentrated on for a long time. Particularly important is he way TV affects children since they can be easily impressed & in the process of developing their identity. Implications of the result and findings of various research studies relate to the way children will behave & the ideology they adopt as a consequence of media representations.
Thus I have chosen to concentrate on an investigation of the relationship between children & TV advertising, toy commercials more specifically since it aims to grab children's attention for a very limited time span, they would suggest to have a particularly influential impact.

Children toy advertising, as claimed by Chaudler & Griffiths, is a well-known haven for sex stereotyping: the idea that toy commercials present hegemonic viewpoints of a differentiation between masculinity & femininity is a strongly controversial & extended one, thus the more specific focus of my study on children, toy advertising & gender roles.

Researchers have long ago agreed the messages encoded & transmitted through toy adverts are gender biased i.e. represent the two sexes in fundamentally different roles. However, more recently researchers have concentrated on the idea that the formal features of adverts & their style are also gender differentiated: Chaudler & Griffiths are particularly relevant include in such claims. They found boys adverts made use of more cuts, solely male voiceovers, were long shots of overheads, faster cutting & they build on dynamic moods (of, for example, excitement, intensity & tension) which support ideological myths of masculinity. Girls adverts, on the other hand, used more dissolves less shot variability, more close ups & ped ups, thus developing more reflective moods (i.e. tranquillity, calmness, relaxation) & giving making a symbolic statement of what does femininity involve. Welch et al came to similar findings, claiming boys' ads contain more activity, higher cutting rate, more noise & aggression (all encouraging & representing boys' tendencies of being active, independent, loud, mischievous & dominant. Girls adverts' formal features, on the other hand, use eg. soft music (supporting stereotypes of girls being subdued quiet & weak) encourage passitivity & dependence. Thus, such formal conventions may, as Welch et al claimed, 'convey & reinforce gender messages at a subtle, very dangerous level'.

The question is whether children attent to those conventions, can deconstruct & afterwards, agree with them (i.e. have a dominant reading) & internalise them. Huston et al, in 1984, investigated this issue & found that although children can make judgements about specific features in ads to determine their sex appropriateness, they used external encouragement to attent to these since they are more concentrated on the advert's message than the form of delivery.

Voiceover has been an area where particular attention was paid. Welch et al found female voiceovers are only restricted to girls adverts, however male voiceovers are present in all male targeted adverts, large number of neutral ads (i.e. targeted at both sexes) & even appeared in female adverts. Such claims were supported by Chaudler & Griffiths research who claimed the dominance of male voiceovers conveys male authority. Kolbe & Meuhling added that male voiceovers resulted in a more favourable response to both the advert & the product, suggesting 'male expertise & advice' may be gven more credit & are better trusted because 'man men know better'. Such conclusions are crucial for the values children come to adopt through watching TV & coupled with reinforcement from outside work (eg. At school or from parents) may be potentially vital for the reproduction of social myths of gender, masculinity & femininity.

Chaudler & Griffths also claim the regular exposure to sex-typed ads in childhood may help establish gender preferences for particular style stylistic traits, cultural framing of activity vs passivity & particular styles of viewing.

This points out to the reciprocal relationship between children & TV: TV sets sends messages, eg. About what the formal features of a normal male ad are, viewers adopt them & afterwards demand to see them present on TV, otherwise they would not respond to media products - the whole process turning into a vicious spiral.

Smith et al concluded adverts show people how to behave, children accept the assumed images as real (i.e. cannot distinguish between reality & fantasy & attribute social realism to adverts) & thus take cues about appropriate behaviour.

I aimed to study such views by undertaking primary research to investigate the understanding of 6 year 8 children of 8 toy commercials I show them. For this purpose, I used 2 methods, content analysis & questionnaires with multiple choice & open ended questions. The first method helped me gather information to base my questionnaires on. It was very helpful deconstructing the adverts & decoding their messages since it outlined potential interpretations of made by my sample of the way masculinity & femininity are represented. Nevertheless, there is the risk that if my interpretations were subjective, then I may have been included somewhat biased or misleading questions in my questionnaires, which in return has implications for the validity & reliability of my primary research.

The questionnaires I compiled were relatively easy & quick to prepare & fill in, thus suitable for my limited research experience. Moreover, they included standardised questions which greatly aided the process of analysis & identification of patterns. The questionnaires allowed me to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, thus increasing the reliability & validity of my findings & also gave my research a replicability.

N Once having compiled the questionnaires recorded & analysed the 8 adverts (which I recorded from cable TV & There a& divided into 3 groups on the basis of the product being advertised: there were 3 male-targeted, 3 female targeted & 2 neutral adverts) & coupled my questionnaires, I showed them to a sample of 3 boys and 3 girls (C2 class) to test their response. The sample was obtained through opportunity sampling from The Thomas Adams School, Wells, making it potentially unrepresentative, however, I placed more emphasis on convenience since this is only a small scale study. I showed each advert to the children 4 times, then asked them to individually fill in the questionnaire. I was present at all times & helped them with any problems they had. My findings will be disuvc

This way, through using both primary & secondary evidence, I was able to make some conclusions about the relationship between children & TV. The first cast the Secondary data was mainly collected from due to easy availability & convenience, however it casts the potential problem of containing bias or inaccuracy. Moreover, one should not forget to take account of the way it was collected & the way the concepts have been unsecured. Nevertheless, they were of great usefulness since it introduced me to the key debates within the topic being discussed, outlined the general patterns & tendencies & helped me organise my research by pointing to the potential difficulties I may face or the useful devises which would make my research more complete.

Good use of secondary sources and a clear account of the process with some reflection on how useful sources and methods were.

2. With detailed reference to your research findings, analyse and discuss the relationship between children and television.

[45 marks]

Overall, the secondary sources I made most reference to that were particularly relevant to my primary research, stated that boy s& girls adverts make use of different forms & stylistic features which tend to support myths of was what is masculine & feminine behaviour & thus they promote & reproduce hegemonic (dominant) ideology of male dominance & activ activeness & female inferiority & passivity. Children can decode the ad such adverts' messages having a dominant reading of them & internalise their ideological views, adjusting their beliefs behaviour of expectations accordingly.

After conducting my primary research & having done a content analysis of the 8 adverts in my sample: 2 Barbie ones, 1 Action man, 1 WF Action figures, one advertising car races, 1 advertising 'What's her face' doll & 2 mixed sex ones advertising 2 children games: Mastermind & Superflexis, I found most of Chaudler & Griffiths findings to be true. According to my investigations, male adverts did use more variability of shots, male voiceovers were used on both male & mixed ads whereas female voiceovers were only present in female -targeted adverts. The sex of the onscreen character usually (but not always) matched the sex appropriateness of the advert. However, from my content analysis, I found out that dissolves weren't used as a transition in any advert, disproving Chaudler & Griffiths, Welch et al findings. Moreover, unlike Smith et al who found female targeted ads were set indoors whereas boys ads were usually set outdoors, I found no such differentiation: indoor setting was present in both male & female adverts. However, previous research on sound seemed consistent with my findings, with boys ads' sound connoting tension, excitement & aggression whereas girls ads' sound supports domesticity, again related to dominant ideology that a woman's place is in the home. Overall, the use of different mise-en-scenes, different iconography, narrative & camera & editing techniques, plus the contribution of colour and sound, the 8 adverts in my sample presented hegemonic ways of behaving & reinforced myths of gender differences.

From using the questionnaires, I also found out there was a clear differentiation between what my participants expected from male-targeted & female targeted adverts. Barbie set the 'norm' for a typical girls adverts (expected to include advertise dolls or clothes, have girls on screen, female voiceovers, no great variability between shots & predominant pink & purple colours all supporting notions of femininity) & Action Man set the 'norm' for a typical male-targeted adverts (expected to advertise Action Man figures, have boys on screen, male voiceovers & colours connoting aggression and maleness (eg. Black, red). There was a general disagreement over the variability of shots, however, children didn't seem to understand this question, thus I have dismissed its findings as unreliable. The expectations were very simplified & deterministic, either suggesting children have fully internalised stereotypical attitudes because of the represented myths of hegemonic ideology in adverts or simply because children felt confused & worried because of the unfamiliar situation, because they conspired with peers by copying their answer or lacked the language &/or cognitive ability to express more complex ideas.
A crucial test of whether or not children can deconstruct the formal features of an advert was the sex classification they gave to the mixed ads. They largely decided Mastermind was a male-targeted advert because there were boys, because boys have more brains or because girls won't be interested (even though the advert was for a neutral strategy game). Such findings suggest formal features of an advert can overrule the product being advertised or its advertising message & instead determining individual judgement of the sex appropriateness of the advert. Such Such conclusions disagree with what Huston et al found out that suggested selling message was more prevasive than form of delivery. The sex classification of the Superflexis advert pointed out to findings very similar to those related to Mastermind. The advert was almost unanimously classified as mixed mostly because of the presence of a girl alongside 2 boys & because girls can be you can do this (i.e. play the game) with everyone! Despite reference to the adverts narrative & product as a way of justifying its sex appropriateness, the rather neutral formal features (eg. Both green and purple colour) may have had an unconscious (unrealised) effect.

The children generally classified the activities & representations in the adverts as real, suggesting they have a hego dominant reading of their message. Nevertheless, there was evidence of a negotiation or even oppositional reading of the boys play to which less social realism was attributed. This may be due to post modern claims of what is termed crisis of masculinity, i.e. boys men's role within society is rather unclear. Children may think the representation of boys in the ads is not realistic within today's' social context. However, they may have simply made such conclusions because of the particular adverts I showed them: they may view boys play in other adverts more realistic.

Identification with the characters was debatable: 2 out of the 6 participants identified with the onscreen actors, both boy participants were male. None of the girls, however, did. Wishful identification was also unclear, with 50% of the sample willing to be like the on-screen actors & 50% refusing (again more boys than girls expressed wishful identification. Such findings may again be expressed through post-modern terms: because of revolutional social change to the role of women within society, the girls may have considered the females represented in the adverts as failing to reflect such change. Boys, on the other hand, may have looked upon the male actors role as role models due to their insecurity of how they should behave.

In Overall children seemed to be using to satisfy their need for entertainment (i.e. for diversion according to the uses & gratifications theory). Some, although a few, also used them for identity information. Intertextual links were very significant for the generation of expectations with previous viewing experiences probably acting as a scheme fo the classification & understanding of all other material the children are shown. They have the ability to discriminate between masculine and feminine formal features but seem to concentrate more on the content than the form, supporting Huston et als findings.

Kolbe and Meuhling's claims also seemed justifiable in their claims that girls are more open to opposite sex activities since girls in my sample expressed clear desire to play with boys' adverts. Boys however, paid no attention to either female adverts or toys. My hypothesis (that children can identify & connote the visual style of the adverts & can use it to determine the adverts' mode of address. They also have a dominant reading of the adverts hegemonic ideology messages & adjust their behaviour according of a segregation between masculinity & femininity & adjust their behaviour accordingly) was proven. Nevertheless, one should not forget I only conducted a very small scale investigation. My sample was very small, the sampling procedure open to bias, thus generalisations would be unreasonable to make. Nevertheless, the research can be claimed valid & reliable to at least some extent since I used gen standardised questions, tried to be objective, collected both primary & sec qualitative & quantitative information & was also able to compare my research to already existing theories & evidence. Moreover, the child's knowledge of the media narratives & conventions is created by his/her age & the behaviour they develop & beliefs & values they adopt are not solely dependent on the influence of the media but that of their parents, schools, peers etc.


Sophisticated and highly focussed study making good use of resources and findings in constructing an argument

QUESTION 1 - 42/45
QUESTION 2 - 43/45



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