Children and Fictional Heroes

Children begin to show interest in television by about 18 months and become spectators at the age of 2-3. In this period when imitation skills are most intense, the child tends to imitate what he sees on television as well as what he sees around him. At this point, the importance of the watched cartoons and TV series for the development of children is revealed. Between the ages of 3 and 6, children are in search of meaning about what they watch.

While the place of television in our lives was not so intense, children tried to create their personalities by imitating the people around them, especially their parents. However, the advancement of technology, the increase in television channels, and the availability of television broadcasts 24 hours a day enable children aged 5-6 to access almost all kinds of information through television. Therefore, children’s identification objects are not limited to parents and the immediate environment.

What are the reasons why children take the singers, actors or fictional heroes they see on television as an example?

Both cartoons and children’s TV series and magazine programs cause an increase in children’s identification objects. Children’s imitation of what they watch is reinforced by adults, both by admiration and by encouraging them to do it again. Because of these reinforcements, behaviors become more repetitive.

Over time, the child may adopt these behaviors in order to gain a place for himself, to be liked and to attract attention. He starts to dress, speak and act like the celebrities or cartoon characters he watches on TV. They start to follow what they do, watch their movies, memorize their songs.

The reflections of what they watched are also seen in their plays. The positive/negative comments of the family and the people around them about these characters and people cause the children to be even more curious.

A 5-6 year old child tries to make sense of what they are watching. At this point, since their cognitive capacity is not sufficient to evaluate every image they watch, it often causes them to have accurate and unrealistic perceptions about what they watch. As a result, they can be adversely affected.

Who are the characters that children see on television and take as an example the most?

The characters that 5-6 year old children take as an example differ according to gender. It is seen that boys mostly watch cartoons containing violence and aggression, while girls secretly watch cartoons and serials with fantastic elements, in which femininity and sexuality are treated.

How can imitating these heroes affect children’s lives? Does it cause them to disconnect from the real world?

Since the perception of reality is not fully established in 5-6 year old children, they may believe that everything they see and watch is real. In particular, they may try to imitate aggressive and violent elements, behaviors such as jumping, flying, killing and destroying, and as a result, unwanted events may be encountered.

In girls, on the other hand, due to the emphasis on femininity, dressing and adorning behaviors can be seen as if they are older than their age.

Could this cause personality disorders in the future? If so, what personality disorders can be seen?

Research shows that images of violence and aggression can cause adjustment and behavior problems. In addition, it is seen that children who watch violent scenes may have sleep problems, are more insensitive to the feelings of others, fight more than their peers, are more anxious, nervous, impatient and rebellious towards their environment, and are almost never disturbed by the elements of violence in real life.

It is seen that problems such as loss of perception of reality, social relationship problems, depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder are more common especially in children who are exposed to violent scenes.

What are the precautions that parents can take for their children who are too caught up in the dream world of television?

The main reason why celebrities and imaginary heroes are taken as an example is to be liked, loved and appreciated. At this point, the duty of parents should be to give messages that the child is liked, loved and appreciated even without these behaviors. Apart from that, parents

  • The child should not show much interest when acting like a fictional hero or a famous person,

  • They should not reinforce these behaviors and should warn those who reinforce them,

  • Seeing and rewarding every positive behavior of the child,

  • Choosing alternative programs suitable for the age and cognitive capacity of the child and guiding the child,

  • Watching together the programs that the child is influenced by and taken as an example,

  • Should talk about what is being watched, have information about the child’s perception,

  • They should inform that what they watch can only be on television or in cartoons,

  • Create different areas of interest that can be an alternative to television,

  • They should be able to set limits on television and the programs watched.

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