Television has evolved into a potent force to be reckoned with in the transmission of social values and norms in a civilised society. Moreover, there are TV stations that have emerged with specialised programming in entertainment, called entertainment television. The study, which this paper represents, sought to find out the frequency of teenagers’ exposure to entertainment TV; the kinds of entertainment programmes they watch; what they pay attention to in the programmes they watch; and how the entertainment programmes shape their world view concerning social behaviour in their environment. The results show that teenagers frequently watched entertainment TV as represented by 81.9% of them who indicated so. It was also evident that there was a significant relationship between teenagers frequency of exposure to entertainment television and programmes, and its role in shaping their social behaviour. It was also noted that the influence of the programmes on the teenagers could be negative or positive depending on the individual teenager and the kind of programme he or she is frequently exposed to. The paper recommends that entertainment programme producers should develop, produce and broadcast entertainment programmes with high positive values, while the negative social values should be presented as unacceptable.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The mass media, most especially television have gradually become a part of our daily lives, and sources of information, education and entertainment have been described as the primary functions of the media. Lasswell (1948) as cited in Folarin (2005, p.74) assigns three functions to the media:
i. Surveillance of the Environment (the news function).
ii. Correlation of the different parts of the Enviroment (the editorial function).
iii. Transmission of the cultural heritage from one generation to the other (the cultural transmission function).
The focus of the researcher in this study is not only on the entertainment function of the media, but the role the entertainment media especially television, plays in shaping social behaviour among teenagers in the society. Stephenson (1967) a British psychologist, as cited in Folarin (2005, p.170), divides man’s activities into work and play. The former involving reality and production, while the latter deals with entertainment, relaxation or self satisfaction. He further says that people use mass communication more as play than as work, more for pleasure and entertainment than for information and serious work. Folarin (ibid) corroborates this view by saying that one constant criticism of television in Nigeria is its focus on entertainment rather than on development purposes.
There is no doubt that the impact of the media on young people’s lives is broadly considered within what is referred to as “media effects” debate which to a great extent focuses on the potentially negative impact of the media on young people’s lives: video violence, gambling, educational performance, mass consumerism, etc (Miles, 2000). Steele & Brown (1995) identifies three main reasons why media influence should be given a closer look:
1. Young people spend more time with the mass media than they do in school or with their parents.
2. The media are full of portrayals that glamorize risky adult behavior such as excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.
3. Parents and other socialization agents have arguably shirked their responsibilities when it comes to directing youth away from risky forms of behavior; thereby allowing the media a more fundamental influence.
In the context of this discourse, many commentators opine that by the age of 18, an individual will have spent more time watching television than any other activity besides sleep (Miles & Anderson, 1999). However, Miles (2000, p.73) is of the view that:
It is widely assumed that young people are affected more directly and negatively by the media than any other age group, research actually indicates that young people between the ages of 14 and 24 actually form one of the groups who currently spend the least time watching television. This is a paradox that has often been neglected in the literature. Ironically, the mass media itself has a vested interest in exaggerating the impact it has on young people’s lives because media-hype simply makes good ‘copy.’
Regardless of the actual time young people spend in watching television and using other media, there is no doubt that the mass media have played and will continue to play an important role in structuring young people’s lives in some shape and form in a period of rapid social change (Miles, ibid).