Children’s self-esteem generally goes down as TV watching goes up. But white boys are the exception, according to a new study published in the journal Communications Research.
Researchers from Indiana University surveyed close to 400 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 12, of whom 59 percent were black, and slightly less than half white, to see if there was a correlation between time spent in front of the TV and children’s self-esteem. They tallied the amount of TV watched and had the participants complete an 11-item questionnaire intended to measure overall feelings of self-worth.
The existing research on the impact of TV on children’s health has focused on body image and eating disorders, Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University and co-author of the study, told ABCNews.com. Given that children spend more than seven hours a day with some sort of media (computers, TV, video games), examining the influence of media on how they feel about themselves seemed long overdue, she said.
The study authors said that while white male TV characters tend to hold positions of power in prestigious occupations, have a lot of education and beautiful wives, the TV roles of girls and women tend to be less positive and more one-dimensional. Female characters are often sexualized, and success is often measured according to how they look.
Black men and boys are often criminalized on TV, the researchers said, which can affect their feelings of self-worth.