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Mass Media

By sworthington7 Dec 07, 2012 2385 Words
Mass Media's negative effect on the younger generation

In today's society, mass media including television, radio, newspaper, and magazines have become very dependable sources for many. People spend multiple hours a day reading about celebrities in the tabloids, watching biased news channels, or participating in violent video games. Even though most media is highly entertaining, people have become so reliant on media that we seem to be harming our community in a very negative fashion. Nowadays, people are living in a world ‘saturated by media, sounds, and images’ (McQuail p.456). Mass media works as a socializing factor and affects the way we view the world and how we interact with other people. However, the messages that are seen in most of the magazines these days are negative images, especially for the youth of the world. With children having easier access to mass media and a wider variety of content, the possible negative influence on health issues, gender roles, and violence has increased tremendously.

The media makes billions of dollars with the advertising they sell and that we are exposed to. We buy what we are told to be good, by the influence of others. After seeing thousands of advertisings, our decisions are based on what we see on TV, newspapers and magazines. In order to be a product we can trust it is influenced on what everyone else we know is buying and their decisions are also based on the media. These are the effects of mass media in teenagers, they buy what they see on TV, what their favorite celebrities advertise, and what is acceptable by society based on the fashion that the media has imposed them.

In the figure above shows how society spends its money on advertising.
There are some positive and negative influences from the media in young people. Some may say a positive influence is if there is a sport that is getting a lot of attention by the media and gains popularity among your friends and society, you will more than likely want to practice the sport and be like all your friends. The result is that you will have fun with your friends and be more healthy because of the exercise your are doing. However, some negative influences in teenagers are the use of tobacco by celebrity movie stars, the constant exposure and portrayal of sexual acts, the excessive images of violence, and exposure to thousands of junk food advertisements.

Young people are in a stage of life where they want to be accepted by their peers, they want to be loved and be successful. The media creates the ideal image of a beautiful man and woman and tells you what the characteristics of a successful person are, you can see it in movies and TV ("HubPages"). It's a subliminal way to tell you that if you are seen as the ideal image, you are not cool yet, so it's time to purchase the stuff they buy and look like they look.

Another negative influence in teenagers that has grown over the last years are anorexia and obesity. There are millions of adolescents fighting obesity, but at the same time they are exposed to thousands of advertisements of junk food, while the ideas image of a successful person is told to be thin and wealthy. The number of children who are obese has tripled in the past 25 years, raising kids' risk for a range of health problems (Thompson and Shanley).

Type 2 diabetes, once a weight-related disease seen only in adults, is now appearing with alarming frequency in children as young as four. Elevated cholesterol and blood pressure are also showing up earlier. "Today's children may be the first generation in modern American history to live shorter lives than their parents," says Colleen Thompson, a dietitian and coauthor of Overcoming Childhood Obesity . "At least one child in five is overweight, the percentage of overweight children has more than doubled since 1970, and childhood obesity is now recognized as a national epidemic" (Thompson and Shanley ). Also more women are obsessive with losing weight even when they are not obese, there are many thin women that want to look like the super models and thin celebrities so they engage in eating disorders which leads to severe health issues and even death.

Everything that children see or hear in the media early on in their lives affects them in some way. Positive parenting role models indicate that in the best interest of our children we should limit their exposure to violent acts. Unfortunately, violence is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Over sixty percent of television shows being shown in prime time contain some form of violence (Tompkins ). There are two very opposite sides of this issue. The media who market the violent television, video games and other forms of entertainment argue this is safe entertainment and the others argue that violence promotes violence. Children who view media violence are more likely to have increased feelings of hostility, decreased emotional response to the portrayal of violence and injury that lead to violent behavior through imitation (Tompkins ). An example here would be the television show Jack Ass. There have been several accidents related to young men attempting stunts that are done on the show. The act of imitating what they have seen on a television show causes injury to themselves or others around them.

The Academy of Pediatrics says “More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is" (Tompkins ). If children begin to think that this type of violence is normal behavior these thoughts are often said to be difficult to change later on in life.

This is similar to the studies of domestic violence where children who are exposed to violence either become offenders or victims because they believe that what they are exposed to is the norm. One instance that brought the worry of violence in media is the Columbine incident. The two young men that committed this act of violence were said to have played numerous hours of violent video games. Their exposure to violence is said to have been the cause since the children involved in Columbine came from secure home environments with active parental influence.

On the other hand the makers of these violent types of media such as movies, video games and television argue that violent children are drawn towards these types of violent entertainment. These people believe that the child must have been exposed to more than just programming in order to exhibit behaviors that they may have seen on television or in the media. Some will argue though that the real effect is so small that in fact one hypothesis suggests that exposure to violent media can actually provide a healthy release for the frightening emotions of children and young adults (Tompkins). At the age children begin to play video games they have not quite developed the ability to distinguish between what is reality and what is not. This can cause young children to act upon the violence they have viewed on television, video games and such, not knowing that what they are doing is wrong or inappropriate.

Graphs 1 and 2 show how adolescents aged between 12 and 18 prefer to spend their free time. If we compare both graphs, we can see that the free-time activities that adolescents prefer are using the computer (workdays 50%, weekends 16%), watching the television (workdays 37%, weekends 18%), listening to music (workdays 41%, weekends 18.1%), doing sport (workdays 23.6%, weekends 18%) and going out with their friends (workdays 9.8%, weekends 47.2%) (Wieland). Graph 1: free-time activities of adolescents (2003) on workday Graph 2: free-time activities of adolescents (2003) at the weekends:

The behavior of adolescents and their attitude towards the mass media are essential factors in young people's way of living and characterize the use they make of language (Wieland). Victor C. Strasburger, M.D., of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, presented that on average, children and adolescents spend more than 6 hours a day with media, more time than in formal classroom instruction. In addition writes Dr. Strasburger, the U.S. youth have unprecedented access to media (two-thirds have a television set in their bedrooms, half have a VCR or DVD player, half have a video game console, and almost one-third have Internet access or a computer), making parental monitoring of media use difficult (JAMA and Archives Journals).

Dr. Strasburger also agrees that all of this media access does have an influence on a variety of health issues. "The media are not the leading cause of any pediatric health problem in the United States, but they do make a substantial contribution to many health problems" (JAMA and Archives Journals).

With the increasing access of mass media a research shows that teenagers who are exposed to a lot of sexual content on television are more to likely to have sex by 16 years of age than those with limited exposure. This shows that the teens may be influenced to have a sexual intercourse while they are under age. Early sexual intercourse may lead to teen pregnancy. According to Coffey, the RAND Corp. study shows that there is a link between a high exposure to sexual content on television and teen pregnancies. Researchers interviewed 2,003 teens during a three year study period and found that 744 teens said they had engaged in sexual intercourse and 718 of them shared information about their pregnancy histories. A total of 91 interviewed teens said they had experienced a pregnancy or had gotten a girl pregnant ( Coffey ). This study shows that teenagers with high exposure to sexual content on TV were twice likely to have been involved in a pregnancy as teen.

Lastly, sexually transmitted disease may also be a result of watching a lot sexual content on television. According to Parent Television Council website, teenagers who watch many sexes on TV tend engage in sexual behaviors more often and tend to have more sex partners ("Parents Television Council"). This is an important issue because these teens become sexually active earlier in life are putting themselves at higher risk for STDs.

Additional studies have proven that there seems to be a strong developmental difference in children's perception of reality. Children under the age of four have shown little understanding of the boundary between television and the real world (Stasburger, Wilson, and Jordan ). Shows like Dora the Explorer and Blue's Clues routinely "ask" the viewers questions resulting in children talking to the television set and waving at the characters. Obviously, a child's personal experience will place a limit on how sophisticated these reality judgments can be (Stasburger, Wilson, and Jordan ).

Education of parents, teachers, and clinicians about these issues is necessary, and education of students about the media should be mandatory in schools. "Parents have to change the way their children access the media—not permitting TV sets or Internet connections in the child's bedroom, limiting entertainment screen time to less than 2 hours per day, and co-viewing with their children and adolescents. Research has shown that media effects are magnified significantly when there is a TV set in the child's or adolescent's bedroom" (JAMA and Archives Journals).

At the same time, media can be an extraordinary positive power, writes Dr. Strasburger. "Antiviolence attitudes, empathy, cooperation, tolerance toward individuals of other races and ethnicities, respect for older people—the media can be powerfully prosocial" (JAMA and Archives Journals). Media can also be used constructively in the classroom in ways that are better than traditional textbooks, such as for viewing plays on DVDs or documentaries of historical events.

"The media are a powerful teacher of children and adolescents—the only question is what are they learning and how can it be modified? When children and adolescents spend more time with media than they do in school or in any leisure-time activity except for sleeping, much closer attention should be paid to the influence media has on them," Dr. Strasburger concludes.

Works Cited

Coffey , Laura T.. "Study: Sex on TV linked to teen pregnancies ." TODAY Parenting., 11 2008. Web. 18 Oct 2012. "Facts and TV Statistics." Parents Television Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct 2012. <>.

JAMA and Archives Journals. "Easier Access To Media By Children Increases Risk For Influence On Numerous Health Issues." ScienceDaily, 3 Jun. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.

"Mass Media Influence on Society." HubPages. N.p., 8 2008. Web. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.

McQuail, D., 2008. McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. 5th ed. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Strasburger et al. Media and Children: What Needs to Happen Now? JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009; 301 (21): 2265 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2009.572

Stasburger, Victor C, Barbara J Wilson, and Amy B Jordan. Children, Adolescents, and the Media. 2nd. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Inc., 2009. Print.

Thompson, Colleen, and Ellen Shanley. Overcoming Childhood Obesity. Bull Publishing Company, 2003. Print.

Tompkins, Aimee . "AllPsych." AllPsych. (2003): n. page. Print.

Wieland, Katharina. Young people's language in Barcelona and its representation in the mass media. 2009. n.p. Web. 17 Oct 2012. <>.,r:0,s:0,i:68

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