The Effects of Sexuality in the Mass Media
Although a great deal is known about the effects of mass media on other adolescent behaviors, such as eating, smoking and drinking, we know basically nothing about the effects of mass media on adolescent sexual behaviors. Media is a pervasive and ever present entity in the lives of North Americans. It is a strong influence for constructing meaning in our everyday lives. Social Comparison Theory posits that “people will at some point in their lives compare themselves and significant others to people and images whom they perceive to represent realistic goals to attain” (Botta, 1999) Television is a tool: whether it is good or bad for children depends on what they watch and how they watch it. Used carefully for children over the age of two years, television need not have untoward effects at all, and according to recent studies can even exert a positive influence. It is not being used carefully. Parents are clueless about the content and consequences of the media-saturated world their children inhabit. Society looks to the media to help us define, explain, and shape the world around us. Without always knowing it, we make automatic comparisons of ourselves, those close to us, and situations in our lives after seeing images in the media. And as a result, after these comparisons we are motivated to strive for, and achieve, new found goals and expectations. Because adolescents haven’t reached the cognitive level to critically analyze and determine reasonable levels of realistic goals, they are more vulnerable to media images (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2003). They are also more likely to take at face value all images and scenarios portrayed in the media. Because they tend to see most everything as realistic and attainable, adolescent girls are more likely to emulate the images portrayed in the media. They will attempt to model themselves, both physically and through their actions, after the images...
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