Small Screen, Big Aspirations

The edge television has over other media due to its multisensorial appeal and its ubiquitous existence has made researchers probe its mesmeric hold on people across the world – especially pre-teen children, considering their impressionable developmental stage.

With this concern in mind, ‘Centre for Advocacy and Research’, a Delhi-based media research organisation in Delhi recently undertook an interesting quantitative survey in the national capital to probe the media habits and activities of children in difficult circumstances.

The 1000 children surveyed came from varying difficult circumstances; they were children with a disability, in slums, on the streets and children in special circumstances belonging to single parent families, or commercial sex workers or from families with alcohol abuse.

The main purpose of the survey was to understand children’s relationship to the media, especially television.

Does TV affect child aspirations?

Small Screen, Big Aspirations

Small Screen, Big Aspirations [Illustration by Shiju George]

What children aspire for depends largely on what they derive from their environment. Media, in turn, is known for its crucial role in justifying these aspirations. It is widely believed that children in difficult circumstances draw excessively on the media, thereby deriving unrealistic aspirations for themselves.

The present study validates this belief. The highest number of unrealistic aspirations – across all categories of children – were in response to What would you like to become when you grow up?. Most such responses being along the lines of ‘I want to drive car like that’.

Out of the categories of children selected, the least of such aspirations came from street children, while the highest were from the slum children.

Studies reveal that such notions arise almost exclusively out of popular cinema. The deprived and wronged triumphing at the end of each film is what fuels such aspirations. Cinema also provides an escape from anxieties inherent to their circumstances.

However, cinema had another significant impact on their responses. A sizeable number of profession-based aspirations depicted a more down-to-earth attitude with several children favouring pursuit of the vocation they were currently engaged in.

Observations also revealed that a child could have both realistic, as well as overly ambitious aspirations. Many aspired a realistic job, yet also wished to be rich and famous and several of them did not find any conflict between these two aspirations.

Television has become a part of a child’s life today. The amount of time spent in front of it is indicative of how gratifying television can be for the child and how easily it influences his aspirations.

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