Mass Media and Its Influence on the Adolescent Mind

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Mass Media and Its Influence on the Adolescent Mind:
A study of student perceptions of body image and magazine advertisements Benjie Achtenberg Macalester College 2006 Abstract: America’s mass media produces, creates and promotes multitudes of ideas and theories that have enormous influence on the American adolescent population and their perceptions of themselves. The following study and its results will examine 9th grade students’ perceptions of their own body image and self-image as they relate to the media. This study is intended to show how 9th grades are affected by the media’s presentation of the ideal male and female body and the potentially negative effects that ensue. The ultimate goal of this study is to inform educators of the importance of a comprehensive education in media literacy, especially for students entering high school. I plan to accomplish this study with the use of student and teacher surveys, a poster/collage presentation and student reflective journals. The surveys will serve as a basic quantitative analysis of student perceptions while the presentations and reflection journals will serve as a means of qualitative analysis. As this action research will show, the media does present male and female bodies in unrealistic ways that in effect lead young people to believe that those bodies are the norm and are what all should strive to achieve. These unrealistic images and stereotypical norms can and sometimes do lead young people, especially girls, to make unhealthy decisions, and cause confusion about how to correctly care for one’s body during adolescent development. These unhealthy decisions can and do manifest themselves in forms such as diets, dieting pills and solutions, excessive exercise and in extreme cases; eating disorders.

Research Questions: How does the media, specifically popular magazines and print media, affect or influence the body images and self-images of adolescent boys and girls?

The following questions are come from the first part of the student survey. 1. Who influences your body image/self image more… your parents? Your friends? Your Teachers? The media? 2. What types of male bodies does the media present? 3. Do you think that these images directly affect how males feel about themselves and how males take care of themselves? Please explain briefly. 4. What types of female bodies does the media present? 5. Do you think that these images directly affect how females feel about themselves and how females take care of themselves? Please explain briefly. 6. Are these images the ideals in our society? 7. Are these images realistic? How many people do you know who have body types like those presented in the media? 8. What misconceptions of how men/women are “supposed” to look are most prominent in the media? 9. Where do you see these “ideal” “stereotypical” male/female bodies the most in the media? Magazines? Movies? TV shows? What types of TV shows?

The second part of the student survey includes questions about students’ individual perceptions of their own body, based on a body size chart (as pictured below in the appendix).

The following questions come from the teacher survey. 1. Are students concerned with body image? If so, in what ways do student show their concern about their body images? How are their concerns manifested? Eating disorders? Exercise issues? 2. Is there pressure on students to have/maintain a certain type of body image?

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3. Please explain where the majority of this pressure comes from? The media? Parents? Peers? Coaches? 4. In what ways do you believe that teachers can have an impact on students’ body images? What can you as a teacher do to help/support students who are suffering from low self-esteem and a negative body image?

Literature Review: Within the past two decades there have been multiple studies done on the media’s effect on adolescent body image and self-image. Many of these studies, done in the past 6 years, have shown that the...
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