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A Proposal on Big Brother Naija and It’s Influence on Youth

Theoretical Framework

Theories help not only to explain and understand phenomena, but also to predict the relationship between two variables (Abend, 2013). Theoretical frameworks can help shape what is seen and how we see it, allowing the researcher to make links between the empirical and theoretical or the abstract and the concrete (Sunday, n.d.). Literature and theory on media effects specifically on the individual has greatly evolved over the years.

Media effects research seems to have taken a three stage progression; first was the embracing of the powerful effects of the media, this was followed closely by a renouncing of earlier work and an introduction of a new model of minimal effects, third and last was the rediscovery of the powerful effects approach (Neuman & Guggenheim, 2011). There were numerous theories developed over these stages such as the magic bullet theory or hypodermic needle theory, two-step flow hypothesis, medium theory, spiral of silence theory, cultivation theory, agenda-setting theory, uses and gratifications and new media theory (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011).

This study employed the cultivation theory as it best describes the phenomena and variables under study. Dissimilar to other media effects or behavioral theories, the cultivation theory best describes the relationship between viewing of television programs over time and its effects on the individual‟s attitudes and behavior.


Cultivation Theory

Gerber developed a research project known as cultural indicators in the 1960s. It was designed to study television impacts, policies and programs (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli & Shanahan (2002). He devised a theory of media effects which he called „cultivation‟ to help create an understanding of the consequences of living and growing up in a world dominated by television (Oliver & Bryant, 2009). Oliver and Bryant focused on televisions contributions to viewers‟ conceptions of social reality. Gerbner et al. (2002) believed that from infancy, television cultivated the various predispositions and preferences that were acquired from other primary sources, becoming the primary source of daily information and socialization (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011). When the monotonous pattern of TV’s mass-produced messages and images formed the mainstream of a common symbolic environment, the effect was known as cultivation.

The central hypothesis of theory postulates that those who spend most of their time watching television ware more likely to perceive the real world in ways that reflect the most common and recurrent media messages of the television world (Oliver & Bryant, 2009). Theory was not interested in how individuals processed the information from the messages on TV, nor was he interested in how people selected these messages for exposure but was rather concerned about how the publics‟ everyday life was at a broader scope exclusively influenced by exposure to media messages on TV (Potter, 2014).

Despite today‟s world having differing media content, the media still has a repetitive pattern of messages and images that create the cultivation effect. This simply means that the introduction of the television brought about a shared or common way of viewing the world. Although there are different classifications of heavy and light viewers, ‟ studies classify heavy viewers as those who watch for more than 3 to 4 hours a day (Potter, 1994). Heavy viewers have a higher cultivation score than light viewers (Potter, 1994). Heavy viewers according to the cultivation theory were more likely to believe in a reality that is consistent with the messages shown on TV despite the fact that these messages do not reflect what happens in the actual world (Potter, 2014). This implies that the youth who watch television for 3-4 hours a day are more prone to exaggerated views of reality.

Big Brother Naija have similar messages that are enforcing a common symbolic environment and may be cultivating the youth‟ views of social reality creating an influence on their everyday decisions- including sexual ones. Thus, heavy viewers among the youth would perceive the real world to be that which is reflected or shown on the television screen. These the youth are more likely to hold a view of a sexual reality that is similar to the reality depicted on TV and hence influence their sexual decisions and thus consequently their behavior (Gerbner et al., 2002).

Gerbner et al. (2002) also proposed that prolonged exposure to violence on television created a mean world syndrome among heavy viewers; crime rates appeared higher, mistrust of others and victimization increased and unrealistic fear was cultivated (Jamieson & Romer, 2014). In the same way, an increase in the availability of programs with sexually explicit content can mean that a prolonged exposure to such programs creates a view of sexuality that is unrealistic and delusive. This can potentially cause the youth- who have been proven to be especially susceptible to media messages than any other age group- to change their attitudes about sex and thus their sexual behavior. Moshafara (2015) noted that the cultivation theory not only states that one‟s entire value system including their beliefs, images, ideologies and perspectives are formulated to a large extent by television but also how the programs on television convey pervasive and hidden values and tell viewers what is right, important, moral and appropriate within a social context but in a most invisible fashion.

could lead to sexual and reproductive health problems, greater emphasis would be given more to televisions‟ negative impacts and influences. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2001) stressed the fact that there has been so far no data that can substantiate the behavioral impact of exposure to these programs.


Television Viewing Effects

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2001) expressed for the last 15 years its concerns about the amount of time children and the youth spend viewing television and the content that is viewed. Early research on media effects began in the 1920s when motion pictures were criticized for having a negative influence on children and in the mid 1930‟s during and after the Second World War. With financial support from a philanthropic organization- the Payne Fund, a series of 13 studies were conducted to find out how movies‟ influenced children (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011). The studies examined film content including attitude change, information gain and subsequent influences on an individual‟s behavior, it was concluded that the movies were potent sources of information, attitudes, and behavior for children. Scholars in this era took a powerful effects approach.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s media effects research shifted to television specifically due to a growing concern over the impact it had on violence and antisocial behavior. It is argued that most television programs are by commercial necessity designed to be watched by large, heterogeneous audiences irrespective of national diversity and despite the expansion of cable and satellite channels that serve even narrower niche audiences (Oliver & Bryant, 2009).

Further studies around 1965 examined possible links between juvenile delinquency and viewing violence on television, one subcommittee came to the conclusion that televised crime and violence were related to antisocial behaviors among juvenile viewers (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011). The existence of a connection between media violence and real life aggressive behavior as much as 10-20% of real life violence may be attributed to media violence (Comstock & Strasburger, 1993).

Also, a 3-year national television study in America found that nearly two thirds of all programming contains violence and alarmingly, children‟s shows had most violence portrayals as violence was glamorized and perpetrators often went unpunished (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001). Since then there have been several experimental, cross- section correlational and longitudinal studies conducted narrating the effects of media violence on children and the youth including video and computer games (Anderson, Gentile & Buckley, 2007). For instance, an Israeli study also discovered that TV viewing seemed to be related to aggression for children living in urban areas (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011). Further experiments in college campuses also showed that violent media content taught aggressive behavior and that a stimulation effect was more likely than a cathartic effect (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011).

The early 1970s and 1980s saw a great increase in extensive research on the social effects of the media not only on violence and aggression but also the effects of pornography, horror movies, sexual content and even positive pro-social behaviors such as effects of Sesame Street on teaching young children how to prepare for school (Wimmer & Dominick, 2011). Research has additionally shown the media‟s negative effects on academic performance, body concept and self-image, violence and aggressive behavior, sexuality, substance use and abuse patterns, nutrition and dieting and obesity.

A further study by Olken (2006; as cited in Bhattacharya & Munasib, 2008) established that exposure to television contributes to lowers levels of participation in social activities and self-reported measures of trust. Huston, Schmitt, and Linebarger (2001) proposed that because television content is contributing to a child’s cognitive scripts; learned patterns of action are leading to expectations about others, about one’s own behavior, consequences of that behavior, and acceptable forms of social problem solving.


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