Impact of Mass Media on Adolescent Health: ''the Dark Side''

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The period of transition from childhood to adulthood is called Adolescent with accelerated physical, biochemical and emotional development. It is a unique period of dynamic change which may be referred to as “Growing up”. Adolescence is the time period that begins with the onset of puberty and lasts nearly a decade i.e., from the age of 12-13 to around 20 years of age. It is a period of rapid growth and maturation in human development. It is this period that the final growth spurt occurs. If the growth of a teenager is not as good as it should be, it is going to affect his/her future health as an adult.

Now HEALTH according to WHO “is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity.” Nevertheless, adolescents and young adults engage in a range of behaviors that can affect the quality of their health and the probability of their survival in the short terms as well as affect their lifetime health and survival. If we look only at disability-adjusted life years for the adolescent age group, adolescents appear to be relatively healthy. Nonetheless, more than 33% of the disease burden and almost 60% of premature deaths among adults can be associated with behaviors or conditions that began or occurred during adolescence—for example, tobacco and alcohol use, poor eating habits, sexual abuse, and risky sex (WHO 2002). Mass media (television, radio, magazines, newspaper, pamphlets, internet etc.) plays a paramount role in today’s society. Mass media are tools for the transfer of information, concepts, and ideas to both general and specific audiences. Communicating about health through mass media is complex, however, and challenges professionals in diverse disciplines. Mass media caters to a diverse audience, ranging from children, to adolescents, to adults. Amongst said audiences, “Adolescents are vigorous users of the information broadcasted in media” (Werner-Wilson, Morrissey & Fitzharris, 2004). Because this time period of adolescent is so crucial to the development of a child’s body and brain, any negative influences can have lifelong health effects. Impact of mass media on Adolescents is particularly vulnerable because this is the age when they are more easily influenced by negative aspect of everything. They are now not mature and many times lead a life of fantasy. This is why young adolescents can not accept the good things presented by mass media tools, rather attracted by illusionary and faulty commercial advertisings, mainly health related aspects. Sophisticated societies are dependent on mass media to deliver health information. The value of health news is related to what gets reported and how it gets reported. Today most prevention practitioners and researchers recognize that many of the messages we get from the media are risk factors for numerous public health problems. From the time we wake up to the radio alarm clock to the time we fall asleep with the TV on, we live in a media culture. We cannot escape the media's influence on either our healthy or unhealthy behaviors. Some positive aspects of mass media is acknowledged, but predominantly came down on the side of television having long term negative impacts. Numerous studies over the past five decades have examined the impact of media on adolescent children, with regard to such risky behaviors as violence; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse; poor body image and eating disorders; precocious, unsafe sexual activity; and teen age pregnancy. A brief review of each topic will offer some insight into the influence of mass media on the health of young adolescents. More importantly, the discussion will address how the concept of media literacy can be used to reduce the negative influences mass media are believed to have on young people's health-related attitudes and behaviors.

Proper nutrition is especially important for adolescents because of their accelerated body growth. In addition, their...
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