CARTOON CHARACTERS ENGAGEMENT BEHAVIOUR OF PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILDREN IN AGUATA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
Department of Mass Communication
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University
Cartoons are the first and most common among the types of broadcasts that children watch on television. Primary school children watch cartoons the most with a rate of 72.1%. Children are usually attracted and influenced by what they see or watch on television and cartoons are being presented to them on many channels without recognition of their useful or harmful aspects. Thus, this study attempts to find out the behaviour of children after watching cartoon programme described as children’s friendly and companion. Do children watch cartoons just for pleasure or watch sake? Do they imitate and try replicating their favourite cartoon characters? Through three selected cartoons namely; Sofia the First, Barbie; Princess Charm School and PJ Masks, the study tries to ascertain the frequency of children’s exposure to the selected cartons, the gratification derived from such exposure and ways such exposure influences them as perceived by the respondents, especially how they engage the major characters in the movies. The work is anchored on Social learning theory, Cultivation theory and Uses and gratification theory. Survey method and focus group discussion was used for data generation; 109 pupils and 24 teachers from four primary schools in Aguata Local Government Area were selected and issued with questionnaire as the sample size drawn from the population of the study. The work found out that primary school children within the age bracket of 6 – 12 are frequently exposed to cartoons and discusses cartoon content among their colleagues. It was equally evident that exposure to these cartoons have positive and negative influence on children especially the children’s clamour for cartoon materials, use of dressing code and speech mannerism of their favourite cartoon characters, seeking popularity among themselves, socialization development and lots more. The study then recommends more measures to ensure use of more positive and educative cartoons on children since aids their socialization development.
Key Wards: Cartoon, Engagement Behaviour, Cartoon Characters.
The advent of cable and satellite television (TV) has boosted TV viewing in recent years and the amount of media products consumed by children in recent time, allowing them to compose their own “media menu” with their own preferences and likings. Cartoon is one of those TV programmes preferred by children and described as children companion or children friendly, (Okonkwo, 2012). The above is the opinion of this mass communication scholar who observed in his work that children within the age bracket of 6-12 years devote much time watching cartoon on television than other programmes.
According to Hassan and Daniyel (2013), children spend much time watching TV than participating in any other activity and cartoon watching is the most favourable hobby of children in their leisure time, as they like to watch the cartoons on television rather than do any physical activity. This constant view of television programmes especially cartoon by children will likely have some influence on them since children normally watch TV for purposes of learning and recognition unlike adults who may just watch for fun. Ergun (2012) noted that the most effective influence in the lives of children after their parents is television and cartoons are the first and foremost common among the types of broadcasts that children watch on TV. Ergun stated that children in elementary school watch cartoons the most with a rate of 72.1%. (Okonkwo, 2012) affirms the above when he says that one of the major programmes that attracts the attention of children and by extension affect their behavior and activities are film characters, particularly in cartoons described as today’s children favourite and children’s companion. Cartoons then seem to be the most frequent and easily accessible source of entertainment for children. With the vast media channels it has become easier for children to watch their favourite cartoons on a single click and at the same time more convenient for parents to provide children with this all time favourite activity of theirs, (Bibi and Zebra, 2012). The existence of cable television channels appears to have increased the number of television programmes especially cartoons that children are exposed to on daily bases as observed by (Njoku, 1997). This is perharps why some scholars got worrisome on the impact of such TV programmes on people especially children. Agbanu and Nwanmuo (2009) noted that “television changed the way people view the world, expanded people’s understanding of events, issues and culture around the world and changed the way people do things” It is obvious that today’s children are mostly unconsciously exposed to TV which is one of the most fashionable inventions of the 20th century. Most TV channels usually on daily bases show cartoon of various kinds between twenty and forty minutes to their audience which are mainly children and young ones. Cartoon network is the most favourite cartoon channel in the world and has gained record breaking popularity since its inception in 1992. It has been watched in more than 80 million houses in United States of America since August 2002 and in 145 countries throughout the world, (Stabile and Harrison, 2003). It broadcasts only cartoon and its 68% audience belongs to the children of the ages 2 to 17 years whereas 32% belongs to the age group of above 18 years and adults. The children from the age group of 6-12 years mainly the primary school pupils are the core audience of the cartoon network (Stabile and Harrison, 2003). Equally, Kottak (2010) believes that TV programmes and all types of cartoons and animated movies are the main factors which are playing a key role in enculturalization of today’s children. All these reveal to us that cartoons are very popular among children of all ages. The forces that shape children’s impressionable minds are found mostly in the environment where they grow up as well as the things that they are exposed to on a daily bases. Saturnine (2004) affirms that children’s strong affiliation to cartoon programmes and supernatural cartoon characters may likely influence their lifestyle due to the adult contents of most cartoons.
It is in the light of the discourse above that the study tries to discover the behaviour of children after watching cartoon programmes. Do they engage the behaviour of their favourite cartoon characters? Do children emulate and replicate these characters? Do they want to act and behave like them? From the three selected television cartoons namely; Barbie: Princess Charm School, Sofia the First and PJ Masks, the study tries to ascertain the level of children’s exposure to the selected cartoons, the gratifications derived from such exposure as well as the level of influence these cartoons have on them. These forms the fulcrum upon which this research is based.
Statement of Problem
For several years today, children have been entertained by television shows and animated cartoons (Origin of cartoon, 2011). Scholars say that some cartoons are useful in developing the moral character of children while others especially violent ones produce anti-social behavior in them (Muzvidziwa, 2011). Children exposed to TV films and cartoons have a lot of undesirable effects. Saturnine (2004) noted that cartoon Network is now no longer safe for children due to its adult contents, against the previous believe by parents that it is safe and strong affiliations with these cartoon supernatural characters makes many children to fall prey to some serious injuries. Okonkwo (2012) observed that it is not uncommon to see Nigerian children playing or fighting with dangerous weapons and acting in several ways viewed as unAfrican as seen in their dressing code, speech mannerism and other lifestyle patterned after their choice cartoon characters. He noted further that children are being easily distracted in their academic and domestic performance due to frequent exposure to cartoon films.
Exposure of children to risk becomes inevitable as they consider things watched in cartoon to be real since they are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality (Bibi & Zebra, 2012). Mc Quail (2005, p486) while enumerating the effects of media use by children summed it thus “An increase in social isolation, reduction of time and attention to home work, increased passinty, reduced time for play and exercise displacement, reduced time for reading due to television watch premature sexual knowledge and experience, unhealthy eating and obesity, promotion of anxiety about self image leading to anorexia, depressive tendencies”.
Whether these assertions are true or not is subject to research. The researcher having observed a high viewership rate of cartoon by children within the ages of 6-10 as opposed to other kiddies programme as revealed by Stabile and Harrison (2003) tries to empirically study the influence of such cartoons on these children using the selected cartoons namely Barbie: Princess Charm School, Sofia the first and PJ Masks as reference point.
Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this research are
- To ascertain the frequency of primary school children’s exposure to the selected cartoon films.
- To ascertain the gratification derived by children from exposure to the selected cartoon films.
- To find out in what ways children engage the cartoon characters in the selected movies.
- How often are primary school children exposed to the selected cartoon films?
- Do children derive gratification from exposure to the selected cartoon films?
- In what ways does exposure to the selected cartoons influence children?
Scope of the Study
This study is limited to four primary schools in Aguata L.G.A which include
- Goodness Comprehensive Primary School, Ekwulobia
- Central Primary School Igboukwu
- Egbuike Primary School, Ezinifite
- Pioneer Primary School, Umuchu
The first two schools are from Aguata South and the last two from Aguata North.
Also the study is delimited to primary school children from primary 2 to 4 in these selected schools. The choice of this group is derived from the fact that these children will supposedly fall within the ages of 7 to 10 years, hence can easily replicate characters they see in cartoons because at this age, they consider things watched in cartoons to be real since they are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Also the study is limited to class teachers of the selected classes of primary 2 to 4 who were informed to observe these children within a space of three months.
This research is anchored on three theories of mass communication, namely, the social learning theory, the cultivation theory and the uses and gratification theory. This is because their basic tenets are fundamental to the understanding of the subject under study.
The social learning theory simply put is the character imitation theory. The idea of this theory is that much learning takes place through observing the behavior of others, (Anaeto,Onebanjo & Osifeso, 2008). It suggests that media can create “epidemic or infectious” behavior ie based on witnesses of the media, that behavior could be acquired as a result of being performed by someone else (Nworgu, 2010).
Traced back to (Bandura, 1977), he states that people learn certain behavior, emotional reactions and attitudes from role models whom they wish to emulate. This becomes more poignant when we consider the effect of some of these observations on children at their formative years and in this instance through the cartoons and home movies they are exposed to. Bandura highlighted four basic steps in the learning process which include thus:
- Paying attention and perceiving the relevant aspect of behavior.
- Remembering the behaviours, either through words or mental images.
- Converting the remembered observations into actions.
- Being motivated to adopt the behavior.
Social learning occurs through four main stages of imitation, namely; close contact, imitation of superiors, understanding of concepts and role model behavior. Thus, it is arguable that the attitudes, values and dispositions that children learn now may form the bedrock upon which their future reinforcement will be based. The children watch these programmes with an independent mind and innocence and may come to believe the content as the bases for their future behavior.
This theory from the explanation so far addresses how several television programmes like cartoons helps in shaping social behavior of children as they continue to observe and imitate the characters they see in such programmes, in this case cartoon characters. Thus they engage in a social learning process through some of the attributes as portrayed on television.
The cultivation theory on the other hand suggests that the more you continue watching a particular programme the more you are vulnerable to inculcate substance of that programme in your behavior. Baran (2004.435) insists that cultivation theory “was developed by media researcher George Gerbner and his colleagues out of concern over the effect of television violence, which has been applied to countless other television cultivated attitudes such as beauty, sex roles, religion, the judicial process and marriage”. In all cases the assumptions are the same: television cultivates realities, especially for heavy viewers. In supporting the above view, Nwodu (2006) states that researchers in this area are concerned with the extent media portrayal of certain issued can influence members’ construction of reality. Summarily, exposure to television programmes that tally with what audience member see in real life situation, tend to increase cultivation effect by reinforcing the audience members’ perception of such reality. Examining the relevance of this theory to the study, the concern will be on the level at which primary school children are exposed to the selected cartoons, their perception of what constitute reality and the acceptable forms of social behaviours as perceived by these children.
The uses and gratification theory is one of the theories of mass communication which simply posits that people use media content to satisfy their needs. The theory explains why people use the media and under what conditions. People are gratified and pleased by using the media. In other words, media consumers actively pick what they want. This theory may be necessary or useful in assessing why children usually prefer watching TV cartoon programmes amongst other TV programmes. Mc Qual (2008) and Baran (2009) expound that media use is dependent on the perceived usages or satisfaction of the consumer.
Evans (1990) defines it as a theory in which “audience… gratification is primary” and media consumers are seen as rational agents whose various uses of media offerings depends upon how these offerings serve various social psychological functions. To Katz’s (1959) the question in this theory is not “what do the media do to people but rather “what do people do with the media”. Thus in uses and gratification theory, it is all about using the media for satisfying individual various needs. Why must children prefer to watch cartoon instead of news, wrestling, football and other programme. It may be to educate themselves, to entertain, to relax, to imitate or to satisfy any of their needs.
These three theories are considered apt for these study because the more children are exposed to media contents (cartoon programme) the more they imitate the cartoon characters as role models and this have some positive and negative influence on them. Equally the children decide what to watch and not what the media want them to watch.
Television and Cartoon: An overview
The word “cartoon” originated from the Italian word “cartone” and Dutch word “Karton” meaning strong heavy paper or paste board. It is a full size drawing made on paper as a study for further drawings, such as painting or tapestry. Over time, the term has evolved from its original meaning from the fine art of the middle Ages to the more modern meaning of humorous illustrations in newspapers and magazines and to the contemporary meaning that refers to animated programmes, Ukie (2012, p.233).
In broadcasting, cartoon is known as animated movie. It is a creative technique for the provision of life to a lifeless object or subject that stimulates such innate objects unto movement. It is usually framed after frame and presented in that order so as to establish a believable story line (Onwuchekwaa, 1991).
Leon and Lewn (2001) noted that the effect of action and motion in animated movies or cartoon is created by projecting still pictures called cells one after another at a rate of 30 cells per second. It is the calculation of the speed of projection of picture frames that enable pleasant images to be believably presented on the screen.
Today’s technology advancement has tremendously improved the quality of cartoon film especially in broadcasting models like puppets. Such models are energized through a progressive transmission of their picture frames presented one after the other in a specific manner. They are given life through the provision of the appropriate sound like dialogue, speech or chorals perfectly synchronized with the movement of their mouth (Onwuchekwa 1991). Owuamalam (2006, p.171) says that the essence is to create a believable image with reasonable behavior in order to achieve believablility and acceptance. He noted further that they are designed to fascinate and thrill the audience particularly children.
Cartoon ranks among the oldest core content of mass media. It goes beyond mere stimulation of human entertainment but also to educate and even use to transmit behavioural patterns (origin of cartoon, 2011).
The Selected Cartoons Summarized With Major Characters
Barbie: Princess Charm School.
Barbie stars as Blair willows, a young girl who lives within the kingdom of Gardenia with her sick mother and younger sister, Emily while working as a waitress at the Café Gardenia in order to help support them. She later wins a scholarship to Princess Charm School. She is kind, clever and clumsy, yet diligent. She loves her family and wants to support them. It is later revealed that she is Princess Sophia, the long lost Princess of Gardania. Alexander Privet is the headmistress of Princess Charm School.
- Dame Devin – a vindictive school teacher at Princess Charm School, who is also the mother of Delancy, the former heir presumptive to the Gardanian Throne. She is also the late Queen Isabella’s sister-in-law. She was arrested at the end of the movie as she revealed that she killed the royal family on purpose by plotting a car accident.
- Delancy Devin – one of the charm school’s students, Dame Devin’s daughter, and originally was to be crowned as the ruler of Gardania until she found out that her cousin Sophia had survived the car accident her aunt Isabella and uncle Reginald were killed in. She later becomes a Lady Royal to her cousin, Princess Sophia/Blair Willows.
- Princess Hadley/Princess Portia – Hadley is one of Blair’s best friends and fellow student at the charm school, who loves sports. Portia is Delancy’s airheaded friend and fellow student at the charm school.
- Princess Isla – another one of Blair’s best friends and fellow student at the charm school, who loves music.
- Prince Nicholas – a prince who attends Prince Charming Academy, and later befriends Blair.
- Emily Willows – Blair’s younger sister who secretly enters her into the Princess Charm School lottery. She is young girl and also, has a very kind heart.
- Blair’s adoptive mother. She loves her adopted daughters as just like they are her real daughters.
A young girl named Sofia and her mother Miranda lived a peasant life in the kingdom of Enchancia. One day, Sofia’s mother marries King Roland II, which leads to her becoming a princess. As she adjusts to her new role, Sofia works to live amongst the royal family while having different adventures along the way. King Roland presents Sofia with a magical amulet, which, Sofia discovers, gives her the power to talk to animals and summon Disney princesses in the time of need.
Sofia, is a little girl with a commoner’s background until her mom marries the King and suddenly she is royalty. With the help of the three fairies in charge of the Royal Training Academy, Sofia learns that looking like a princess isn’t all that hard but behaving like one must come from the heart .
Set in the storybook world of Enchancia, the movie introduces Sofia, an average girl whose life suddenly transforms when her mother marries the king and she becomes a princess, Sofia the First. Sofia must learn to navigate the extraordinary life of royalty while holding on to her own hopes and dreams. Her journey to being the best she can be also paves the way for those around her to realize how special they each are. Cinderella makes an appearance in the movie to offer Sofia some words of wisdom, princess to princess. Sofia’s royal adventure begins as she prepares to move into the castle with her mom, starting a new family with her step-father, King Roland II, and step-siblings, Amber and James. Helping Sofia in her journey are the three headmistresses of Royal Prep Academy – Fauna, Flora and Merry weather (the beloved fairies seen in Disney’s classic “Sleeping Beauty”) and royal steward, Baileywick, as well as a group of cute woodland creatures led by a wise-talking rabbit, Clover. Sofia soon discovers that looking like a princess isn’t all that difficult, but displaying honesty, loyalty, courage, independence, compassion and grace is what makes one truly royal.
Sofia learns that looking like a princess isn’t all that hard, but behaving like one must come from the heart. The stories focus on the idea that what makes a real princess is what’s on the inside. The show highlights character qualities such as kindness, courage, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace. Subjects such as sincerity and forgiveness are heavily focused on. She has the magical and incredibly powerful Amulet of Avalor that allows her to talk with animals, shrink, and even turn into a mermaid. However, her amulet is coveted by the sorcerer Cedric, who desires its tremendous magical power to take over the kingdom of Enchancia.
PJ Masks follows three 6-year-olds, Connor, Amaya, and Greg, who lead relatively normal lives by day, where they are neighbours, classmates, and friends. However, at night, they become Catboy, Owelette, and Gekko, and fight crime as the PJ Masks, a superhero team. Together they go on adventures, defeat villains, solve mysteries, and learn valuable lessons. Some of the heroes in the cartoon include thus;
Connor/Catboy (voiced by Jacob Ewaniuk) is a blue-eyed boy with brown hair. When he transforms he wears a blue costume with cat ears and a thin feline tail. He is the leader of the group. He has super-hearing using Cat Ears, can leap high and far using Super Cat Jump, and sprints fast using Super Cat Speed, or just Super Speed. His main flaw is his aquaphobia, a flaw which can be exploited by the team’s opponents, as does Luna Girl in “Catboy’s Cloudy Crisis”. His vehicle is the Cat Car, located in the middle segment of the Masks’ tower. His bedroom is on the second floor of a blue-roofed blue-doored house next to Amaya’s.
- Amaya/Owlette (voiced by Addison Hoifey) is an auburn-eyed girl with brown hair who wears glasses and is able to do a When she transforms she wears a red costume with cape that can solidify into wings. She is able to see in the dark using Owl Eyes (or Super Owl Eyes) and fly by using Super Owl Wings, which she can also use to launch gusts of air to send opponents flying backward, which she calls her Owl Wing Wind. Her vehicle is the Owl-Glider, housed in her top segment of the PJ Masks’ tower. Her bedroom is on the third floor of a red-roofed red-doored home with a walled-in yard between Connor and Greg’s houses.
- Greg/Gekko (voiced by Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) is a green-eyed blonde-haired boy who is able to do the side splits. He is the youngest member of the Masks. When he transforms he wears a green costume with a thick reptilian tail, fins on top of his head, and suction cups on his hands. He can use Super Gekko Camouflage to change colors and blend in with his surroundings, Super Gekko Muscles (aka Super Muscles) to lift heavy things, Super Lizard Grip to climb walls or anchor himself to stop vehicles, and Super Lizard Water Run to walk on 13 He has exhibited enough strength to lift Romeo’s giant mobile laboratory off the ground to overhead. His segment is the bottom level of the tower which stores the Gekko-Mobile, a submersible vehicle which can travel underwater and also via land on tank treads which is slower than the Cat-Car, It has abilities similar to him, with a “Gekko-Mobile Camouflage” letting it blend in with surroundings, and its treads can adhere to walls, allowing it to drive up the side of villains and go across roof-tops. His bedroom is on the second floor of a green-roofed green-doored house next to Amaya’s.
Cartoon Influence on Children’s Psychology and Behavior Patterns.
Cartoons as one of the core content of mass communication is increasing in today’s television programme. Currently, animated film classics and new television series can be seen on cable/satellite channels such as Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Kidsco, 4 Kids and Disney Channel. On the influence of these cartoons on children psychology and behaviour patterns the work of two co-authors was examined.
In their own findings on the work titled “Effects of cartoons on children’s psychology and Behaviour patterns”, Bibi and Zebra (2012) showed there is a wide range of cartoons from fairly tales like “Beauty and the Beast,” Barbie: Princess Charms School to action based cartoons like “Ben 10”, ‘Power Rangers’ and PJ Marks. They said that children between the ages of 6-8 have different preferences, girls usually into fairly tales and animated “Barbie” series where as boys and some of the girls still, have their favourite super man hero cartoons like “Spiderman” “Batman”, or action flicks like “Bay Blade”, Ben 10” or Power Rangers” and PJ Masks. Bibi and Zebra discovered that children at such an early developing stage considers things they watch in cartoons to be real since they are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality and often believe that if Elmer Fudd remains unharmed after being bashed by Bugs Bunny with a hammer a number of times, so can they. They do not realize that these fantasy things have no true value and identity, that no “Spiderman” exists who will jump from top of one building to another with the help of his web, no such ‘Ben 10’ wrist watch which will start blinking and will alert Ben of every evil action before hand. That if someone is killed or beaten up by cartoons, does not mean that kids should also start doing the same. They exemplified the above scenario with the account of Mukarran, 8, studying in primary 2 who received a warning from his school after he got caught for beating up a fellow student. When asked for explanation the child replied innocently; “I was just showing my friend one of the moves I saw in a cartoon the night before”. His family members admitted the fact that they never kept an eye on his TV activities.
Bibi and Zebra exposing the research carried out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric (AACAP). Children that view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see.
Bibi and Zebra exposing some behavioural influence of cartoons on children reveals the experiences of the following people: – Hassan father of two sons said; “there was a time when one of my sons began to play pranks on his little brother quite frequently, and I failed to understand the reason behind this sudden change in his behaviour, one day however I found him watching “The cramp Twins”, and I understood the reason for all this bullying”. Hassan also said that he has become conscious of cartoons that his sons watch since that time.
They shared another experience of a junior wing school teacher who when asked about children’s behavior regarding violence and physical actions commented “some students are always picking up fights in the class, one of the reasons behind this aggressive behaviour could be that they are too much influenced by violence based cartoons or other programmes which parents without any concern let them watch in excess.
Still sharing more experiences, they reveals further that children watching too much cartoons often fantasize the kind of life cartoon character are living.. They shared the views of Lizzy an exasperated mother of 7-year-old-daughter, whose daughters fixation with her favourite cartoon, “Winx Club” “creates a lot of fuss every time they go for shopping as she insists on having the same wardrobe as the characters in the ‘Winxclub’.
Also college going girl Rita, elder sister of a young kid Nelly says; “My youngest sister is really under the influence of these glamorous tales and she assumes herself to be princess who is interested in wearing strapless frocks and wants to do ball dance”. She believes that such programmes are putting a negative impression on the innocent minds of children.
Bibi and Zebra noted on the other hand that there are lots of cartoons, which are not only the best source of entertainment for kids, but could also be used for educational purpose. For instance some cartoons like “Barney” can be used to stop some toddler from crying where as “blue Clues” or “Dora the Explorer” can be used for some brain activity making children to learn shapes and to identify colours etc. They noted the comments of one of the teachers at a local primary school who said, this “for mind building and constructive learning of children, students have a cartoon period once a week, and we try to show them standard cartoons after thorough selection so that they could drive something positive out of it”. A psychology student Rose Peters shared her views regarding this issue; “Give your children time to watch cartoons as it is the most common source for education, expose them with programmes which are appropriate as per parental guidance”.
From the findings discussed; it is evident that cartoons have a lot of influence both positive and negative on children’s behavioural pattern.
Influence of Television Programmes on Children
Television programme can affect a child positively and negatively as well. Okonkwo (2012) narrates the influence of Television on a 9-years Flora who is so crazy about cartoon characters especially “Ben 10” that she certainly insisted that everything she use must bear ‘Ben 10’, be it school bag watch, games, sandals, exercise books etc. Flora’s mother became tensed not able to understand how just a TV programme can influence her daughter’s life so much. She jumped and shouted “an idiot box called TV greatly influence kids”. Okonkwo sees children as clay which gets molded according to the environment and TV programmes as part of this environment that influence the growth and development of a child.
Summarizing the positive and negative influence of TV programmes on children; Okonkwo has this to say. That some TV programmes have good effects on children. That TV shows on some channels like Discovery or National Geographic Channel can increase child’s knowledge which is needed in this competitive age. Other channels also help the children in understanding the importance of proper nutrition, health and exercise. Some others help them in academic learning in programs like quiz competition. While some channels provide opportunity to prove child’s talent in dancing, acting, painting and more which can prove beneficial to them.
Discussing also on the negative influence of TV programmes on children; Okonkwo noted that TV programmes mostly affect the behavior of children. He says that most children watch cartoon films and get so infatuated with them that they start using the dialogues used by their favourite cartoon characters. Added that children watching TV programmes meant for adults usually on concepts like crime, divorce, murder etc. poses great danger on them and have a very bad impact on the child’s mind. This he said may lead to unwarranted thoughts in their minds and can divert their attention from studies and force them to do undesirable things. This can create disturbance in a child’s life and make his or her life stressful. He finally noted that watching television for longer time can deteriorate child’s health.
Steele and Brown (1995) identify three main reasons why media influence should be given a close look;
- Young people spend more time with the mass media than they do in school or with their parents.
- The media are full of portrayals that glamorise risky adult behavior such as excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.
- Parents and other socialization agents have arguably shirked their responsibility when it comes to directing children and youths away from risky forms of behaviour; thereby allowing the media a more fundamental influence.
In the context of the discourse, many commentators agree that by the age of 18; an individual will have spent more time watching television than any other activity besides sleep (Miles & Aderson; 1999). However, Miles (2000, p.73) is of the view that; young people are affected more directly and negatively by the media than any other age group.
All these findings have helped to prove that TV programmes including cartoons have a lot of influence on child’s behaviour.
The study adopted two methods of survey method and focus group discussion.
Survey method was chosen because the researcher could not study all the pupils and teachers in the selected school, so she decided to sample a manageable number. The aim of the study is to find out how primary school children engage or replicate their favourite cartoon characters behaviour and the ways such character replication influences them as observed by their class teachers. Thus survey is used to get the opinions of the selected class teachers and children drawn from the entire population of study.
On the other, focus group discussion (FGD) was also used. This method aims at ascertaining audience disposition towards a given issue through engaging few people – about six or more but not more than 20 in few hours controlled discussion, (Nwodu, 2006).
To get these children’s opinion, the primary school children from the age of 6 to 10 in primary 2-4 from two public and private schools in Aguata L.G.A were selected through simple random sampling. The selected schools are
- Goodness Comprehensive Primary School Nkono Ekwulobia with a total of 116 pupils from primary 2-4,
- Central Primary School, Igboukwu, a total of 104 pupils from primary 2-4,
- Egbuike Primary School Ezinifite has 92 pupils while
- Pioneer Primary School Umuchu has 124, all from primary 2-4.
The total population of study is 436 pupils. The pupils from primary two to four were purposively chosen possibly because they fall within the age bracket (6-10 years) usually referred to as “copy cats”. They believe things they watch on television as being real and replicate their choice characters especially in cartoons as noted by (Okonkwo, 2012).
A sample of 109 children was selected through systematic sampling. A class register of each of the selected classes of primaries 2 to 4 were used and every fourth name on the list was chosen until the last name.
Thus from the first school with the population of 116 pupils from primary 2-4, a total of 29 pupils were selected systematically, second school with 104 pupils, 26 were selected, third school with 92 pupils, 23 was selected and from the fourth school of 124 pupils, 31 were selected totaling 109 children.
The children were given copies of a questionnaire on their choice of cartoon and why the choice. This was a pilot study before selecting the cartoons to study. The cartoons were selected based on children’s preference. In order to remove any ambiguity, the researcher explained all the questions in the questionnaire and the children were entertained one by one so as to easily respond to the questions.
A session of focus group discussion (FGD) was also conducted in each of the schools for the pupils and another for the teachers. The FGD for the pupils were done before commencing the study to get their response for their choice cartoon. A total of 12 children participated in each school. Four pupils of two boys and two girls were purposively chosen from each of the selected three classes of primary 2 to 4. They mainly fell within the age bracket of 6-10 years. The discussion took place between 11 to 11.30 am break time in either primary 2, 3 or 4 classroom in each of the schools.
A session of FGD was also conducted in each of the schools for the teachers with 6 teachers participating in each school. In the four schools, the head teachers suggests that all the primary school teachers of primaries 1-6 will be part of the FGD since cartoon exposure is for all the primary school children.
Thus in the 4 selected schools, the researcher had a 30-minute discussion with 6 teachers who were pre-informed during the pre-test to observe the pupils after discovering their choice cartoon. This FGD for the teachers took place three months after the children’s own so that the teachers will have little time to observe how the selected cartoons influence the children. The FGD took place during the break period that is between 11 to 11.30am at the head teacher’s office.
The essence of the FGD is to get more responses from the teachers who may not express all their observations through the questionnaire alone.
A total of six teachers were sampled from each of the school based on discretion and that is primary one to six teachers of each of the school making it a total of 24 teachers to answer the questionnaires.
Demographic analysis of the children respondents showed that 48 (44%) were males while 61 (56%) were females, 13 (11.9%) fell within the age bracket of 04-06 years, 53 (48.6%) within 06-08 years, 33 (30.3%) within 08-10 years, 7 (6.4%) within 10-12 years and 3 (2,8%) within 12-14 years. Also 21 (19.3%) of the respondents were in primary two, 53 (48.6%) in primary three and 35 (32.1%) in primary four.
For the teachers, 93 (85.3%) of them were females and 16(14.7%) males. 18 respondents representing 16.5% fell within the age bracket of 25-30 years, 45 (41.3%) within 31-35 years, 27 (24.8%) within 36-40 years, 10 (9.2%) within 41-45, 6 (5.5%) within 46-50 years and 3 (2.8%) fell within 51-54 years. For their occupation, 100% of the respondents are all civil servants. For the respondents’ marital status, 38 (34.9%) are single while 71 (65.1%) are married. On educational qualifications, 49 (45%) have OND, TC II and NCE whereas 60 (55%) had HND, degree and other higher qualifications.
From the pre-discussion and questionnaires to the children, data collected reveals that 109 (100%) of the children prefer cartoon films than any other programme. On how often they watch the cartoons, 99 (90.8%) watch cartoons very often while 10 (9.2%) often watches cartoons. On the cartoons they like most, 48 (44%) went for Barbie series especially Barbie Princess Charm School, 36 (33%) went for Sophia the first while 25 (23%) went for PJ Masks. On why they like the cartoons, 10 (9.2%) says they want to be the hero, Princess or Prince of the children, 20 (18.3%) want to be popular like the cartoon characters, 18 (16.5%) want to help others like the characters, 25 (22.9%) wish to speak and act like the cartoon characters whereas 13 (12%) need magical powers to change at different intervals.
On their favourite cartoon characters 44 (40.3%) went for Barbie, 34 (31.2%) says it Sofia, 25 (23%) chose PJ boys while 6 (5.5%) says it is Jerry. On whether they will like to behave like their favourite cartoon characters 92 (84.4%) says yes, 7 (6.4%) says no and 10 (9.2%) can’t really say for sure.
Answering Research Questions
Research Question One
Respondents (teachers) view on the frequency of children’s exposure to the selected cartoon films.
Data reveals that 18 (75%) of the respondents observed that children are most often exposed to their choice cartoon, while 4 (16.7%) says they often watch the choice cartoon and 2 (8.3%) says they sometimes watch the cartoons. This implies that a higher percentage of the children always watch their favourite cartoon films, an indication of children familiarity with cartoons and cartoon characters.
Respondents’ view on whether the children remember and discuss what they watch in these selected cartoons, 22 (91.7%) says yes they do while 2 (8.3%) can’t say for sure if they do remember and discuss or not.
Research Question Two
Respondents’ view on whether children’s exposure to the selected cartoons provide any kind of gratification to them, 21 (87.5%) says yes that it does while 3 (12.5%) can’t say for sure.
Respondents’ view on the kind of gratification the cartoons offer to the children as they observed. 2 (8.3%) observes that these cartoons are educational and also aids child’s relaxation. 7 (29.2%) observes that it helps children’s socialization with others, 3(12.5%) says it teaches them good behavior, 6(25%) says it helps in child’s development while 4(16.7%) observes that it is for children’s entertainment.
Research Question Three
Respondents’ view on whether children’s exposure to the selected cartoons influence their behaviour 23 (95.8%) says yes it does while 1 (4.2%) can’t say for sure.
Respondents views on the ways such children exposure to the selected cartoons influence them, 4(16.7%) observes that children try to emulate the violent and bad behavior of their favourite cartoon characters like fighting, quarrelling, desiring magical powers, heroism etc, 5(20.8%) says they emulate the cartoon characters good behavior, 8 (33.3%) says the children copy and tries to speak like the cartoon characters, some talk well and speak good English like them, 7(29.2%) likes dressing like their choice characters.
Respondents’ view on whether the selected cartoon helps in children’s socialization with other children and in what ways if it does. 24 (100%) of them observes that exposure of children generally to cartoon films aids child’s socialization especially in discussing various cartoon series, the contents and the latest cartoons in the market. Also discussing of various available cartoon materials in the market like wrist watch, school bags, sandals, games, T-shirts etc of various cartoons not only the selected ones.
They also discuss on popularity, the hero or the strongest man, Prince or Princess among them. They also discuss dressing code as seen in their favourite characters and always try to speak and dress like them. They demonstrate some of these characters in the classroom.
Respondents view on the observed lessons children learn from these cartons, 2 (8.3%) observes that children learn morals and values, creativity and defence respectively. 5 (20.8%) equally observed thus, that children learn how to talk well and speak good English and also how to dress well. 4(16.7%) observes that children learn team work, 3 (12.5%) says it is popularity while 1(4.2%) says it is violence.
Data from Focus Group Discussion (FGD) corroborated the foregoing when asked what they observed that children learn from the selected cartoons and other cartoons too. The participants responded that children learn how to make friends with people and help others as well as team work as seen in Barbie Princess charm school.
In addition, another teacher said she thinks that cartoons are good for children because it provides them with fun and keeps them busy and occupied and helps the timid ones to socialize with others especially while discussing various cartoon series amongst themselves. Another participant said also that cartoon is futuristic as it broadens the level of imagination of children and makes them believe that anything is possible.
Discussions on cartoon influence on children the following were revealed by some teachers who participated in the FGD;
- Enjoying cartoons has its fun and benefits but when the interest for cartoons becomes an addiction, the case is different; it has some negative impact on them as observed among the pupils.
- Cartoons are becoming an inevitable part of the daily life of kids as 9they discuss cartoon content most often in the school especially at their leisure time or break period. It was discovered from these teachers that many parents leave their children in front of cartoon screens just to make them eat food, stay free or to be busy with their own works.
- Most cartoons don’t use proper vocabulary leading to poor language development. These copycat children follow this. Most times, instead of trying to talk, they simply make sounds just as their favourite cartoon character. A child does this regularly in my class and keeps saying he is talking like his cartoon hero.
- Influx of foreign cartoons: This is what majority of the children watch and it differs from Nigerian cultures and values. Most families have and prefer satellite Tv providers like DSTV and little or no value for local/national stations. This affects the children.
- Addiction to cartoons leads to less physical activities and make children spend most of their time indoors. They never know the excitement of playing outside. Even during break period, some pupils are inside the classroom discussing cartoons. But playing outside will help them know the nature and this will also keep them active and energetic.
- Vision problems are noticed in some of these children. They don’t copy their notes very well or read well in class. Continued exposure to the bright light of computers or tablet is not good for the little pupils’ eyes. It may affect their vision in due course. About three children were said to have eye glasses at this early stage of their life.
- Wrong eating habits are observed in some pupils. Sometimes they eat and talk, play and do some other things. When confronted one of the children said I normally eat in front of the screen only. This seems to be one of the main reasons for wrong and unhealthy eating habits in children. Eating habits that a child practices in their childhood will last with him or her for life long.
Discussion of Findings
The findings of this research agree with social learning theory which states that most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling from observing others who in this case are the cartoon characters. However, some teachers hold that cartoons had influenced children’s behavior positively and negatively as they pick up skills that you did not know they had from their favourite cartoon characters.
One of the teachers noted during the focus Group Discussion (FGD) that there is a clear evidence from classroom that children like those cartoons which are broadcasted on weekday afternoon or evening as most children hurry to go back home after school to watch and that this cartoon viewing have a strong impact on “in-class” behavior of children. She says further that some children often demonstrate cartoon related behaviours in the classroom. Another teacher confirmed this by saying that the son is just behaving now like the cartoon characters fighting and always trying to lord it over other children as the king. Another teacher said that it is not that cartoons are not educative or good for children but children being copy cats at their early childhood ends up learning even what you do not want them to learn, most times in the classroom, you hear them speaking funny things and saying some slangs they learn from cartoons. Yet another teacher observed that cartoon has helped her daughter a lot in inculcating neatness and team work. She will always want to dress well like a princess and work with her class mates to make it. A primary four girl, Uche corroborated this by saying “I learn how to dress and do my hairs by myself from cartoons like Barbie, before I do not know how to wear ‘to match’ but now I dress like a queen. Another boy from primary 3 named Benson said I learn how to fight from Ben 10 and will always want to show the primary three boys that I am their king, if my siblings offend me, I fight them like Ben 10 but today I wish to acquire more power like P.J. Mask boys”.
The findings so far affirm that the social learning theory appropriately addresses how television cartoon helps in shaping children’s social behavior. Children engage in a form of social learning process as they replicate the behavior of characters they see in cartoons. They try always to speak, dress, act, walk and behave the same way as their favourite cartoon characters.
The findings show that while children are watching cartoons, there is a form of learning process that is going on. Also, whatever children learn while watching cartoons they tend to act it out thereby influencing their mode of socialization with other children and with the world in general.
The result of these study shows that primary school children are frequently exposed to television cartoons and that this level of exposure plays a significant role in shaping their behaviour. It was also found out that cartoons influence on children can be either negative or positive depending on the individual child and the particular cartoon he or she is exposed to. Most of the children spend their leisure time watching cartoons as their most favourite hobby.
It was also derived from the study that most of the cartoon watched by Nigerian children are foreign based with heavy influx of foreign programmes from satellite TV providers like DSTV which majority of the respondents claims to be watching. These foreign cartoons have contents that differ from Nigerian culture, morals, values, language and even our dressing code. Thus lack of locally produced cartoons in the opinion of the researcher is one of the major reasons why there are so many foreign cartoons and little or no Nigerian cartoon and equally why you see most children behaving in ways viewed as unAfrican.
Children seem to identify with cartoon characters they choose as role models for themselves and integrate them into their relations in their social life and into their games, and they reflect the positive or negative manners they gain from these characters in their lives.
This study in view of its findings on the cartoon characters engagement behaviuor of primary school children reveals that children regularly watch the selected cartoon films and others than any other television programme and this has some negative and positive influence on their behavior. But the influence can be made positive by a little effort on the part of parents or elders, government, movie censoring board and other related agencies. Therefore, the following recommendations are made.
- Since family is one social institution that plays a vital role in shaping children social behaviour, parents and guardians should devote ample time to educate their wards on what they watch on the entertainment or cartoon TV stations, keep an eye on their activities and observe peculiar changes in their behavior and pay a little heed towards providing selective cartoons that will have a positive impact on them. By doing so, parents can help their children to interpret television materials and overcome the effects that televised violence has on their attitudes and behaviour.
- Parents/guardians should make their kids realize that these fantasy things in most cartoons have no true value and identity. Like no such ‘Spiderman’ exists who will jump from top of one building to another with the help of his web. That if someone is killed or beaten in cartoons, does not mean that kids will start doing same.
- Also parents with intervals should have an interrogation session with their children and try to clear the reality of things and answer controversial and ambiguous questions they have in their minds.
- Video producers/entertainment TV stations should be mindful of the children in the packaging of their movies and programmes as this can shape the behavior of children who are still in their formative stages. They should not sacrifice morality on the altar of profit making but mindful of promoting programmes of positive impact on the consumers.
- The Nigerian Films and Censors Board must realize that it is not enough to grade films, but to also see it that the children’s interest are protected before films are released into the market.
- The broadcasting regulatory body should try and regulate the content of TV programmes in order to combat the negative influences it might have on its viewers especially children
- There should also be some enlightenment programmes to educate parents and guardians on the need to monitor what kinds of cartoon programmes the children watch in order to ensure their appropriateness.
With these and more, the possibility of overcoming to an extent the current challenges of negative influence of television cartoon programme on child’s behavior will be reduced as they will now replicate good characters they are exposed to. And children programme that will aid their moral development into wealthy and future leaders of tomorrow will be provided.
Contribution to Knowledge
Overcoming the deviant behavior in children learnt mostly from exposure to television programmes will require a pragmatic and collaborative effort of all the various agents of socialization.
Proper attention to behavioural change or children’s attitude re-orientation involves wide participation from these agents – the family, schools, churches, government at all level and the mass media especially television. These bodies must cooperate and articulate uniformed positive messages aimed at promoting good and moral values in children since they are easily influenced by what they hear and see.
Our behavioural patterns, beliefs practices, cultural values and lots more should be taught and showcased in the home, churches and promoted in TV programmes thereby enlightening the children on the dangers of watching programmes that are not helpful to their well being and rather be exposed to those which teach decent morals.
By the concerned government agent such as National Broadcasting Commission responsible for regulating broadcasting organizations waking up to their responsibility of controlling, regulating and limiting the types of TV programmes transmitted by TV stations to ensure discipline and sanity in the broadcasting industry.
By concerned film producers ensuring that all children programmes must be geared towards influencing them positively. This is important to the people and the society, as less negative influence would mean less social vices in the society.
Children practice what they see/watch on TV thereby consciously or unconsciously imbibing their ways of life, hence indigenous ways of life must be showcased. Television is a viable tool in the task of teaching and inspiring the children. Although for now TV programmes especially with the satellites and cables are mostly foreign in Nigeria, the children can still learn how to handle some situations of life, relationship with people etc. if properly guided. This means that media institutions though have negative influence, can also be a driving force in development through its daily transmissions, by changing the mindset of the children, and the society at large.
Recommendations for Further Studies
This study recommends that future researchers should investigate why in spite of the high level of negative influence of cartoons generally have on children, still parents expose their children to such films and more still allowing them to watch it alone without their supervision, contribution or clarification. The outcome of a study of this nature will certainly help to provide the missing link as well as help to reinforce or debunk the outcome of the present study.
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