The American public view their country, the United States as a democracy, yet with such a large presence of mass media in modern American culture, has it in fact evolved into a mediaocracy? Whether it is on a billboard on one’s way to work or the magazine stacks on line at the supermarket, the media has essentially become inescapable. It is a part of the public’s everyday life, a source of entertainment, and a source of information on critical current events. But with the advancements in technology, has the media’s influence grown so large over modern day society that it has the power to shape culture and public opinion? The presence of the media now far exceeds its original purpose for public knowledge of current events and has crossed the boundary into defining popular culture and establishing the norm in modern day American society.
Today the general public is bombarded with images of how they should look, what they should eat, and how they should behave. Holly McClure who wrote a book on the very topic about media and the effect it may have on society states, “Did you know that: The average third grader has witness 16,000 TV murders? [Did you know that:] By the age of 17 most children will have viewed at least 400,000 sexual acts on television? Our greatest battlefield in this new millennium [with new technologies invented everyday] is for the minds and hearts of our children” (McClure). With such a profound impact that is being witnessed one has to wonder how will such a large exposure to the media impact the development of adolescents. And more importantly how will that translate into tomorrow’s adult population?
There are different perspectives on the controversial issue of what the media’s affects are on the population that it is intended to serve. The truth of the matter is that what the public sees, what they hear, and what they read is being controlled by fewer and fewer large multinational corporations. In regards to the news, it is no longer just reported, but managed in a way that sets its terms and shapes its overall content. When you have a media system that is a subsidiary of corporate America, you then have a media system that will not cover stories that are based on public interest, but instead stories that are based on profits. What furthers this problem is the consolidation of many of our media sources into a handful of giant corporations. In that respect, what resembles choice is actually an illusion of choice that is maintained when you have a hundred channels on your television, yet the owners of all these different sources are the same. This same concept applies to the public’s newspapers, magazines, internet providers, etc., so what appear to be many different media sources is actually only one. In the end, the media which is an ever growing presence in the public’s lives is actually propaganda disguised as local news or entertainment or for that matter politics. This is a very dangerous development especially for those who are most vulnerable, the children and adolescents. The youth of the American society are the future of its survival and their development as a whole is crucial to a healthy adult population.
To begin with research studies, that will help answer the question on whether or not the media affects youth, lets discuss a study named “Adolescents’ Contact with Sexuality in Mainstream Media: A Selection-Based Perspective.” The study inspected what predicts adolescences to pick and chose their media of choice (media here is defined as internet, television, and magazines). It makes reports based on 2,184 Dutch adolescents. “This study emphasizes sex differences in the characteristics that predict such contact and the role of youths’ critical evaluations of information about sex in the media…This study underscored the need for more comprehensive, longitudinal studies of adolescents’ media consumption and its connections to sexual development in youth” (Hawk).
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