National Institute on Aging

Television Viewing Can Negatively Impact the Self-Esteem of Young African Americans

A new study, published in the journal Communication Research, finds that television has a negative impact on the self-esteem of young Blacks. The study was authored by Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University and Kristen Harrison, professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan. The authors surveyed 400 youngsters and measured their self-esteem and then compared these results to the amount of time they spent in front of the television. The results found that for Black and White girls and young Black males, their self esteem was lower the more they watched television. But for White males who watched a lot of television, their self-esteem increased. The data also showed that young Blacks on average spent 10 hours more per week in front of the television than young Whites.

Professor Harrison notes that “children who are not doing other things besides watching television cannot help but compare themselves to what they see on the screen.”

“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for you,” Dr. Martins said of characters on TV. “You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there. Young black boys are getting the opposite message: that there is not lots of good things that you can aspire to.”

The article, “Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self-Esteem: A Longitudinal Panel Study,” can be accessed here.


Comments (3)

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  1. Deshun Cleveland says:

    Wow! These findings are saddening. Although, I must say that I am not surprised at the outcome because in many ways TV and other forms of media has influenced adults just the same. It is our responsibility as parents to provide constructive stimulation for our children. Furthermore, we should not leave our children to their own devices to interpret subliminal messages displayed on TV.

    • In our family, upon getting married we agreed no television other than news, weather, some sporting events and no drama other than Our Story (Black history) where it showed truths. Following these we had time to research and validate information and push forward. Our family has not had disfunctions or related drama to deal with in the unit. I was effected by yellow journalism growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, WOW, what I have learned since. I also worked in media(TV) and what I learned was enlightning. Television is a media, if not controlled by parents, that can be as dangerous as having a drug dealer in the house. Television does not teach that foundations have to be laid, built upon and nurtured to maturity, then the glorious fruit will be acquired. KILL THE TV AND VIDEO GAMES and UP WITH WHOLESOME FAMILY ACTIVITY TO BUILD THE MIND AND BODY.

  2. deltadawn says:

    I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw once: Shoot your TV!

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