The concept of adolescence was presented near the end of the nineteenth century and characteristics were attributed to male youths where the adolescents were depicted as “passive and vulnerable”. This label, or stereotype, has greatly changed. Nowadays, young boys face varying forms of stereotypes that lead to judgments that were unimaginable in the past century. The mass media has greatly influenced these stereotypes, so it has contributed to creating an increasingly judgmental society, which forces young boys to adapt in order to fit the accepted norm.
It is no mystery that society has become increasingly judgmental. In the words of the teen singer and actress, Ariana Grande, “Sometimes, people can be extraordinarily judgmental and closed-minded to anyone different or special, which is why it’s so hard for young people in this day and age to be comfortable enough in their own skin to not listen to the people picking on them.” This is something that I, for one, have experienced first hand not only in the environment I am currently in, but also around the world. People are highly judgmental and take seconds to form a prejudice about a person after a brief encounter. This is a fact that reflects how “broken” societal values truly are.
In order to judge a person, he who is judging must know many things in order to determine if he or she is “fit.” When it comes to children, these prejudices can truly affect their development. A clear example of this is Walker’s son in her essay “_Putting Down the Gun”._ This boy was a sweet kid who was not a gamer nor a jock. He felt out of place because of this and asked his mother if he should try to become either one in order to be attractive to girls. Stereotypes are shown to lead to judgment, since boys become prejudiced toward certain roles that they must adhere to in order to feel accepted that lead them to make unnatural changes and choices.
Understanding why society has become increasingly judgmental, leads to uncovering the underlying cause. Who would benefit most from these stereotypes that lead to prejudice? One element comes to mind: mass media. The mass media is the machine that conglomerates around the world wield in order to beat consumers into submission. In the case of Walker’s son, he was faced with two prefabricated consumer centered options. If he inclined towards gaming, he would spend thousands of dollars on consoles and games. Nevertheless, if the choice was becoming a jock, this would entail thousands of dollars of investment in equipment and lessons.
Furthermore, there are repeated instances where mass media is responsible for changing society’s view on men based on the promotion of certain consumer goods; such is the case of Paul Theroux’s “_Being a Man”_. In this essay, Theroux states how Marlboro managed to change society’s opinion of cigarettes. Before this mass media maneuver, cigarettes were thought of as a woman’s item. With the publicity that presented the picture of Clarence Hailey Young, Marlboro managed to convince the public that rugged men also smoked cigarettes. Instantly, the stereotype on cigarettes changed. Before Marlboro’s publicity, a man that smoked would have been considered feminine. After Clarence Hailey Young, cigarette smoking was viewed as a masculine and rugged habit.
On the whole, mass media is made up of internet, video games, music, television, newspapers, magazines, and other means of reaching large audiences. Social media, though technically not considered mass media by many experts, is a way of communicating with others on a global scale that has grown exponentially. Many would argue that mass media is not necessarily negative. Nevertheless, a study by Pediatric Child Health, performed over a decade ago, takes into consideration the positive and negative aspects of mass media.
Though not all television programs are harmful, this study shows that it has negative effects on youths such as exposure to violence, offensive language, and exposure to sexuality. It also involves health hazards such as an increase in obesity and hindering academic performance. On the other hand, video games promote coordination and finer motor skills, but may harm the learning process when the games are violent. Subsequently, internet is a source for learning and can be seen as a “huge home library”, but can be addictive and hinder social development. Printed media, though rich in useful information, is filled with ads that promote images that accentuate the stereotypes that adolescents consider must be adopted.
Hence, it is necessary to resolve the central issue of mass media´s effect on youth. In order to do so, governments, educational boards, companies, and parents, in general, must come together and agree on a successful course of action to protect youths from the influence of mass media on stereotypes and the artificial expectations it produces. Once way to combat the influence of mass media, is to instill values that allow youths to become unaffected by mass media strategies. As a result of upbringing and constant counseling by parents, youths can follow a different approach to mass media bombardment. For instance, around the age of 13 years old, which is the time when teenagers develop their sense of style and tastes, I decided that I would not follow the herd. I decided to do this because I did not desire to be part of the “sheep” and follow these off the edge of the cliff.
To me, conviction hailed that there was no point in doing the same thing as everybody else. In consequence, I decided to be unique, and, when it came to fashion, I would search for those items that I preferred and were uncommon to the masses. Seeking out singularity and establishing a sense of self is are traits that I have adhered to ever since. Certainly, this could be appealing to others; it has definitely been working out for me. Placing conviction over the stereotype is indeed a sure way to surpass judgment and avoid adapting to a norm or fad that does not agree with a youth’s personality. When certain of likes and dislikes, mass media has little to no effect on youths or individuals as a whole. Still, is this course of action feasible for all?
The success of any strategy to combat mass media’s effect on youths has much to do with the adolescent’s context, which encompasses family, culture, peers, and schools. Development occurs in this setting and it is greatly influenced by historical, economic, cultural, and social factors. The opportunities and support for development that adolescents receive greatly vary depending on the country they are in. Traditions are emphasized with greater force in Asian countries, while in the Middle East the contact between girl teens and boy teens is somewhat limited. Overall, adolescents are heterogeneous though technological advances the characteristics among youths are blending into a new culture. Despite all this, there are similarities and differences among adolescents worldwide. (Santrock 2008)
So, where is the key to deflecting the negative effects of mass media on youth? It may lie in valueflection. Adolescents uphold a system of values that they base their decisions on. These values have a hierarchy that the teen ponders upon to weigh which values are most essential or primordial than others. These values and their order change during a lifetime, but the moment in which an individual strives hardest to begin to form a sense of self is in the teen years, subsequently, mass media can greatly influence their value system during this time, as can family and peers. The media provides a frame through which the teen can see the world, and, unfortunately, it promotes egoistic society.
Teens see values in the media that they internalize and establish as important for success or what they consider happiness. However, the media promotes, but according to the teen’s needs it fulfills or does not fulfill those needs. Mediated valueflection presents the idea that with proper control variables, such as the influence or presence of a significant other, like a friend or family member that can help the teen clarify and truly evaluate his or her value system, the influence of mass media on them will not be significant. (Richards 2010)
Without any type of support for the adolescent, the media does what it has been doing: promote egotistical values based on acquisition of infinite material goods that promote a capitalist society. It will continue to isolate ideas and present a framework that reinforces the need to own tangible things as the uttermost value a teen will have. The key to minimizing the effect of mass media on youths may lie in focusing on their similarities and making a concerted effort to focus on values that promote assertiveness, uniqueness, and individuality.
In conclusion, the role of adolescents in society has been established since the beginning of the twentieth century. Even so, at the crucial moment in which a teen is truly developing a sense of self, conglomerates have used mass media with the sole purpose of instilling materialism and egoism as essential values for youths worldwide. The consequence has resulted in an overly judgmental society that centers on stereotypes that lead the youth to take on beliefs and attitudes that truly do not agree with them simply to try to adapt or fit in with the crowd.
The most efficient way to counteract this is to interact with the youth and contribute a framework opposed to the simplistic and empty values that are presented in the mass media on a regular basis. If the youth has a real frame of reference to fall back on and someone to talk to about the issues they are presented with through mass media, the effects of this publicity phenomena can be neutralized. It is imperative that parents, guardians, family, peers, and true friends teach adolescents to be independent and assertive so that the teens come to the understanding that no one can judge them for being themselves.
Grande, Ariana. “Even Performers Like Me Get Bullied.” The Huffington Post.
TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Jan. 2012. Web. 04 May 2014.
“English Class (IVC).” Paul Theroux’s “On Being a Man” Blogger, 16 Feb. 2014. Web.
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“Impact of Media Use on Children and Youth.” National Center for Biotechnology
Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2003. Web. 04 May 2014.
Richards, Melanie Burleson, “Mass Media’s Relationship with Adolescents’ Values and
Behaviors: A Theory of Mediated Valueflection” (2010). Sociology
Santrock, John W. “The Historical Perspective.” Adolescence. 12th ed. N.p.: McGraw
Hill, 2008. 4-44. Print.
Walker, Rebecca. What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future. New York:
Riverhead, 2004. Print.
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