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Media's Negative Effect on Adolescents

By rjdavis1 Dec 13, 2010 2385 Words
America’s youth has become overwhelmed by the media. What was started as just a media stream has become an issue to today’s adolescent society. Before World War II, the only form of media that was available to young people was only print, motion pictures, and the radio (Roberts12). In a ten year span, the television distribution increased from fifty percent to fifty-five percent; then in a four year span it increased to eighty-seven percent. Coinciding with the growth of the media available to adolescents, the content of the media has changed (12). In today’s society, the media has created specific contents aimed at the youth. In Roberts article Trends in Media Use, he states that “ Television has moved from family programming, to children programs, and now to complete channels aimed at the youth market” (12). Ever since the creation of novels and comic books, the effect of media has been debated.

Mass media have existed for centuries; its history is traced back when dramas were performed in the early days in different cultures. The term “mass media” evolved as a result of the printed media (Bhattacharyya). In 868 A.D, the first newspaper was printed in China. Due to the expense of paper and the inability for people to read, the use of newspapers was not popular therefore making it unsuccessful. Europe can boast about being mass media’s primary source because it was in 1453 that Johannes Gutenberg that he printed the first book in a printing press. It was during World War II that the radio, television, and video were introduced. As a result of its information and entertainment, the audio-visual facilities became popular which later paved the way for internet, the later form of mass media. The internet later became popular because of the different things that individuals can do such as generate information about literature, politics, fashion, etc. when others can listen to music while working and playing games (Bhattacharyya). Other forms of mass media include: magazines, video games, compact disc, digital video disc, advertisements, and more.

Adolescents have particular needs that they would like fulfilled. They have the need to be accepted in friendship groups, to become popular, to have relationships with people of the opposite sex, etc. Because mass media publishers and producers understand this need, they create advertisements on television, the internet, on billboards, etc. on how to meet that need using a particular product or doing something contrary to how they were raised (Kulkarni). Therefore, publishers and producers should monitor what they put in mass media because of the violent behavior, sexual influence, and the false body image portrayal to adolescents.

Publishers and producers should monitor what they put in the mass media because of the violent behavior displayed by adolescents as a result of the violent behavior showed on TV and/or video games. There have been about three-thousand studies on the effect of media violence on adolescents; few of the studies show no effect (Strasburger 557). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an American child would have viewed about two-hundred thousand acts of violence on TV alone by the age of eighteen. “The Mediascope National Television Violence Study found that children are learning aggressive attitudes and behaviors, becoming desensitized to real world violence, and are developing a fear of being victimized by violence” (The AAP). For instance, in the year 1963, Professor A. Badura along with other professors “studied the effect of exposure to real-world violence, television violence, and cartoon violence”. ‘They divided 100 preschool children into four groups. The first group watched a real person shout insults at an inflatable doll while hitting it with a mallet. The second group watched the incident on television. The third watched a cartoon version of the same scene, and the fourth watched nothing. When all the children were later exposed to a frustrating situation, the first three groups responded with more aggression than the control group. The children who watched the incident on television were just as aggressive as those who had watched the real person use the mallet; and both were more aggressive than those who had only watched the cartoon.” (Media Awareness Network) One might make the observation that adolescent children will try to mimic what they have seen on because of the fact that they saw someone else do it.

Secondly, publishers and producers should monitor about what they place in the media because adolescents are being exposed to sexual explicated medium. The studies of sexual messages displayed in television shows, movies, etc. have discovered that there has been an increase in the number of portrayal and conversations about sex, along with intense explicitness of these portrayals (Huston 1). “ The television research shows a fairly consistent sexual message across TV genres,” Huston states, “most portrayals of sex depict or imply heterosexual intercourse between unmarried adults, with little reference to STDs/AIDS, pregnancy, or use of contraception” (1). A 2006 news article from CBS, states that “adolescents who have see and hear frequently about sex in the media may be more than twice as likely to have been involved in intercourse verses those who are rarely exposed to it.” (CBS News) According to a study published in Pediatrics, “researchers surveyed more than 1,000 public middle school students in North Carolina when they were twelve to fourteen years old and again two years later when they were fourteen to sixteen years old. Researchers measured each teen’s sexual media diet by weighting the frequency of exposure to sexual content in four major types of media: TV, movies, music, and magazines. The teens were divided into five equal-sized groups ranging from the lowest exposure to the highest exposure. The results showed that exposure to sexual content at ages twelve through fourteen increased the risk of early teen sex even after taking into account other factors known to reduce the likelihood of teen sex, such as parental disapproval of teen sex and getting good grades. In fact, each increase in grouping of sexual content media exposure increased the risk of teen sex by thirty percent “(CBS News). Because adolescents are becoming curious from being exposed to sexual explicit medium, this should be an eye-opener to publishers and producers that they should be more careful about the sexual explicit content they are placing in the medium. A study was done on popular shows viewed by adolescents on Prime-Time television. Results display that fifty-percent of characters in the shows encounter some form of sexual intercourse. These shows display Sex as something that is done for recreational purposes, not having anything to do with having a relationship or even the intention of reproducing (Ward). In addition, the Music Television(MTV) is a prime example of television program that depict sexual messages to their viewers, adolescents. “From the beginning, MTV transformed music into television programming by using fast-paced visuals to grab the attention of a very specific youthful audience – a new generation that had been raised with television and had different ways of processing information (Sherman and Etling 378).”

Finally, publishers and producers should monitor what they place in the mass media because it portrays false body images of actors and models. Body image is a term that embodies an internal perception, thoughts, and self-evaluation of an individual’s physical outward appearance (Presnell 2007). The media can be one of the main contributions in the formation of body self-images and could be responsible for displaying unrealistic expectations and body dissatisfactions among adolescents, particularly young girls (Strasburger 560). “Adolescence is a critical developmental period, bringing numerous physical changes, social challenges, and role transitions that increase vulnerability to body dissatisfaction (Presnell 2007).”  Conveyed messages in the media about body images are often associated with increased body dissatisfactions, while exposure to the ideal thin image contribute to decreasing self-esteem among adolescents, females in particular (Presnell 2007). “Beauty standards that are sanctioned by an individual's culture are hypothesized to influence how individuals perceive and evaluate their bodies. Western culture currently endorses an ultra-thin figure for women and a lean, muscular one for men. Pressure to conform to these ideals is evident in messages from the media, parents, and peers (Presnell 2007).” According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, studies have proven that there has been an increase in the number of plastic surgery procedures among adolescents from 59,890 in 1997 to 205,119 in 2007. This increase in plastic surgery was a result in adolescents wanting to be accepted by society after watching some type of mass media. The most common procedures among adolescents include Rhinoplasty, Breast Reduction, Correction of Breast Asymmetry, and Chin Augmentation (Conwell 2008). In addition, promiscuity is celebrated in the media. Nelly Furtado, secular artist, sold more albums from her hit “Promiscuous,” than other albums she made, due to her sexed up image. “Party girls Paris Hilton and Britney Spears forgot their underwear for a night out, and teen girls echo those images on their MySpace pages.” This devastation caught the attentions of many as well as the American Psychological Association. The APA classify this era as “The Sexualization of Girls.” In a report done recently, psychologists and educators express that these images are damaging to the self-image and mental health of girls which is also teaching them to disrespect themselves (Dahl 2007).

One may argue that mass media does not effect adolescents in negative ways. In the year 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were the suspects in what is known as “The Columbine Shooting.” Klebold and Harris killed 12 people along with themselves at their high school in Columbine, Colorado. It was reported that this horrific event was inspired by a video game entitled “Doom,” which was a shooting game. The day before the killing, Klebold and Harris made a homemade video about how they were going to reenact the violent video game. Witnesses say that these two teenage boys went through the school randomly shooting under tables, desk, and in different locations of the school; as if they were playing the game in real life (Cullen 1999)

According to Ofcom, the broadcasting industry watchdog, television channels have the ‘human right’ to broadcast offensive material. A mother of two disabled kids was offended by what was said in a television program. The regulator claimed that what was said in the TV program was “editorially justified (The Telegraph 2010).” The producers may feel that it is alright to put, what viewers may call, offensive because they are trying to provide true entertainment and want to known for having some of the high ranking show with the most viewers. However, moral responsibility is the key. Just because they have the right to display what they want, they should still monitor what they place in mass media because of the behavior that adolescents will display as a result of they see in various medium. The real life experiences should be an eye opener to media publishers and producers to monitor what they display.

It is true that publishers and producers have the freedom of expression, according to Article Ten of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, this article does not just apply to publishers and producers of medium, but also to concerned parents. They too have the freedom to express their concerns about what is being placed in the media simply because they want to protect their offspring from being contaminated from what is being showed to them.

In conclusion, the media does contribute the development of adolescents and it important that publishers and producers monitor what they place in the media because some parents are not responsible enough to monitor what their kids watch. It can and will have a short or a long-term effect on them. The media has influenced adolescents to do crazy things such as behaving violently, participating in sexual activity, and going to extreme measures to make themselves look and feel good, all as a result of something that they have seen on television, in a magazine, in an advertisement, and more. Publishers and Producers cannot accomplish this task alone, but the parents must help out and work with them in achieving such tasks. If the publishers and producers does not work along with the parents, adolescents are open to whatever comes their way; which may result in something tragic such as the Columbine Shooting.

Works Cited

AAP Committee on Communications. “Media Violence.” The American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. 15 Nov 2010

Bhattacharyya ,Ajanta. “History of Mass Media.” Buzzle. Web. 11 Nov 2010.

Brown, J. “Media May Prompt Teens Sex” American Academy of Pediatrics. 1. 117. (April 2006): 1018-1027. CBS News. 17 Nov. 2010  

Conwell, Vikki. "More Teens Put Best Face, Body Forward." Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA). 28 (Aug 2008): 12. SIRS Researcher.Web. 26 Nov 2010.

Cullen, Dave. "Inside the Columbine High Investigation." Salon.com. 23 Sept. 1999. 26 Nov. 2010

Dahl, Melissa. "More Pre-Teen Images Focus on the Promiscuous." Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, CA). 05 Mar 2007: n.p. SIRS Researcher.Web. 26 Nov 2010.

Huston, Aletha C., Ellen Wartella, and Edward Donnerstein. “MEASURING THE EFFECTS OF SEXUAL CONTENT IN THE MEDIA: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (May 1998): 1-94. 17 Nov 2010

Kulkarni ,Arjun. “Mass Media Influence.” Buzzle. Web. 11 Nov 2010.

Presnell, Katherine, "Body Dissatisfaction in Adolescent Females and Males: Risk..." Prevention Researcher Integrated Research Services, Inc., Vol. 14, No. 3. Sept. 2007: 3-6. SIRS Researcher. Web. 26 Nov 2010

Strasburger, Victor “Children, Adolescents, and the Media: Seven Key Issues.” Pediatric Annals. 39. 9. (September 2010). 556. SIRS Researcher. Web. 05 Nov 2010.

Sherman, Barry L, and Laurence W. Etling. “Perceiving and Processing Music Television.” Bryant and Zillmann 373-88. 19 Nov 2010 Roberts, Donald F. and Ulla G. Foehr. “Trends in Media Use.” The Future of Children. 18. 1. (Spring 2008) 11-37. JSTOR. Web. 08 Nov 2010.

Ward, Monique L. “Talking About Sex: Common Themes About Sexuality in the Prime-Time Television Programs Children and Adolescents View Most.” Spec. issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 24 (Oct. 1995): 595. Expanded Academic ASAP. U of South Carolina Lib., Columbia. 19 Nov. 2010

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