Many adolescent teens are exposed to numerous encounters with the media that have a negative impact on their judgments, actions, and opinions. This is referring to the video games, movies, television shows, and magazines that surround them everyday. We begin to discover how it effects their decisions and behaviors. Adolescence is a time when young people are identifying important aspects of socialization like employment, gender rolls, and the development of morals, values, and beliefs. However, it is also a time when family influence and ties become weaker and outside presences become stronger and more important in the lives of the young.
Most teens search for guidance, not from their parents but from a celebrity, pop star, or actor. These people may only be a role model for a short period of time simply because the teenager has a slight interest in they’re work or could even be as capricious as they released a new album that month. Some examples are make-up ads, “hot or not” articles, and even some television programs such as the Bachelorette create this false image of perfection that teenagers aspire to be like. This specifically targets their expectations, priorities and self-esteem. Teen girls initiate this mindset where they overanalyze every situation. The way they dress, the amount of makeup they put on, and even how they judge the appearance of the people around them including their friends. In a recent interview with Notre Dame Secondary School’s Child Youth Worker, Mrs. Kennedy states, “they strive to be what they see in magazines and on the news. It really begins to hurt and damage their self esteem” (Kennedy).
With so many years of experience with the youth, Mrs. Kennedy’s very capable of describing how teenagers feel through various situations and why. She talks with teens everyday that go through self-esteem and family issues and agrees that the media, “especially the social media” (Kennedy), greatly affects the way teenagers view and judge themselves. “Some movie ads can be very offensive to not only women but also men. Most stereotypes also developed from movies and television shows.” (Williams) Teenagers may not be physically forced to hide who they truly are but are frightened enough to choose to mask themselves.
When high school student Matthew Smith was asked his opinion on the growing population of homosexual teens, he stated, “everyone now is more accepting to your sexuality than they would have been say 10..15 years ago. Media has really helped it along.” (Smith) Two other high school students had similar beliefs when it came to the openness teenagers are being given with their sexual preferences. This is one example of a positive influence the media has on the way teenagers can express themselves. They encourage teens to be “comfortable in their own skins” and to not be ashamed of their natural instincts. Some illustrations are the television show 1 Girl 5 Gays, the Gay Pride Parade, and even the numerous Gay/Lesbian support groups funded by some celebrities. Both teenage boys and girls are less ashamed of who they choose to have an interest in, in today’s society.
In the latest survey conducted by Ashley Sanchez, 54% agreed that teenagers could be open with their sexuality. (Figure 1) Even if 46% disagreed, the good outweighs the bad. Over time, teens are becoming more and more focused on the useless things instead of the bigger picture. Their priorities have changed drastically. Media advertisements emphasize that in order to be considered what we classify as “cool” or “hip” we must own the latest gear or wear the newest line of clothing. In addition to this, many teens only follow what is socially acceptable. If it is not in the latest teen magazine it’s considered “totally last year” and will be shunned if worn.
In a recent survey 44% agreed, and 24% strongly agreed that beauty and appearance is very important (Figure 2). This means more than half of the tabulated results find their appearance to be very important. This is a shocking result because it shows roughly how many teenagers really do care about the way they look.
There are positive and negative affects that the media has on the teenage mind concerning their appearance and the way they see and portray themselves. However, one must take into consideration that these statistics may increase in time because of the different ways one can access and is exposed to the media.
Personality, Morals and Behaviour
The way a teenager behaves weighs heavily on those who surround and nurture them throughout their childhood years. (Picard). Nonetheless, studies show that during adolescence the mind goes through drastic changes. The frontal lobe in the brain has not yet developed and this is essential for decision making and reasoning. That is one rationale as to why teenagers can be described as reckless and daft at times.
A teenage mind is extremely vulnerable to outside influences. When they see their favorite actor or singer do something that is inappropriate they think it becomes acceptable. Approximately one million teens get pregnant and give birth every year in the United States. Eighty percent of those births are to unmarried teens. Teenage pregnancy has serious consequences for the mother, the child and society in general. Teenage pregnancy frequently leads to limited future prospects for many teen mothers who are unable to complete high school. Adolescents who have babies are also more prone to health problems and experience a maternal death rate 2.5 times higher than women aged 20-24(ProQuest Staff). For example, the shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom are two television demonstrations of underage pregnancy.
None of these teen moms are married, and half of their children’s biological fathers want little or nothing to do with them. This taints both teenage girls and boys’ minds with deceitful and inaccurate interpretations of sex and love. Shows like these pollute the idea of raising a child and marriage with an easy way to fame. (Jennings) It changes teenage morals to the impression that since it’s on the television that it is okay to imitate their behavior. Not all teens are as naïve as to go and engage in sexual behavior just to be famous but the fact that these teenage mothers allow a recording crew to follow them around and film their day-to-day lives and constant arguments with their boyfriends is ludicrous and sends a terrible message to other teenage women. When students were asked if reality television could be educational, the results showed more than half of the students agreed that it could be educational. (Figure 3) “I really don’t umderstand how it could be educational.
I think it’s more for entertainment purposes” (Kennedy). Many children born to teenage mothers suffer from low birth weight and other related health problems, with a large proportion of them having insufficient health insurance. Children of teen parents often receive inadequate care because teens are rarely able to provide the nurturing and stimulation required by infants for normal development. Although teen pregnancy rates declined throughout the 1990s, a 3 percent jump in births to teen mothers between 2005 and 2006 raised alarm that sex education programs and campaigns to reduce teen motherhood were failing. “Teens don’t understand what it means to be truly mature, or respecting themselves as a human, not an object”. (Mellor). Some people think that providing teenagers with contraceptives is the best way to lower teen pregnancy rates, while others think the focus should be on abstinence education (ProQuest Staff).
Teenage violence has never really been a big topic of discussion, however one cannot ignore the on-and-off teenage rages that occur. Children all over the world are engrossed in warfare in their little boxed-up world that is their constant companion. Parents think nothing now about their teenage child playing violent video games for hours each day. There is the known positive correlation between habitual violent video game play and mild and severe forms of physical aggression. This study brings out the belief that children in highly individualistic cultures such as in the United States and Canada are more prone to this effect. All children will become more aggressive if repeatedly exposed to violent video games, and younger children are more susceptible to this than older ones. (Hulaimi).
Teens in Nintendo mania may have issues with self-control. The part of the brain that video gaming stimulates is the amygdala, the part connected with emotional arousal. What the violent content of the video game does is stimulation of the brain’s arousal centers, doing little to the cortical areas involved in perception and thinking. (Jayson). Stereotypes are repetitively in the media. Some movies not only humiliates teenagers of specific races but also drives them away from their own culture because they are afraid of being teased or ridiculed. “If you’re of a certain descent, you are portrayed in the media a specific way and most people adjust their personalities to fit those stereotypes.” (Nadesh). Teens begin to lose their true personalities because they are trying to fit this mold of what the media deems is socially acceptable.
Communication and Relationships
Adolescence is a crucial time for friendships, and relationships to develop and become more serious. Websites like Twitter and Facebook have become extremely popular to the teenage population. It affects the way they communicate with one another. “Before, if two people wanted to talk to one another they would usually do it face to face or on the phone. But overtime, we’ve become so used to just chatting with people online or texting them that not only has it changed the way we communicate but also the kinds of relationships we have with certain people.” (Nadesh). A lot of teens feel driven by this lust or love concept. “Teens fall into traps very easily, especially when they truly believe the gestures are genuine” (Mellor). Since a lot of teens have barely experienced a real relationship they have a very vague perspective on love.
Nearly 1.5 million high school students across the country experience physical violence at the hands of a dating partner each year, according to a website created by the National Dating Abuse Hotline and the awareness group, Break the Cycle. One in three adolescents have experienced physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend. (Duret). Unlike adults, teens in abusive relationships don’t typically live together or see one another much outside of school. Their battleground becomes the telephone and social media. This is where put-downs, name-calling and jealousy manifest in angry phone calls and Facebook posts. (Duret). There have been multiple cases where the teenager’s significant other’s jealousy would be pushed to the extreme and murders will occur. (Duret)
The case of Brandon Nicholas Santos, 18, arrested on first-degree murder charges in the death of girlfriend Emilie Sineace, 16. Police said Santos drove to Sineace’s suburban Lake Worth house Sept. 14 and sent her a text message to come outside. When she did, he fired six shots at her. Half of them hit her, and Sineace, an Inlet Grove High student and aspiring surgeon, died the next morning. Now Santos, who recently played football at Park Vista High, may spend the rest of his life in prison.
Teens often bring up the 2009 case of R&B singers Chris Brown and Rihanna. The celebrity couple turned a national spotlight on domestic violence among young adults when Brown was arrested and sentenced to probation for attacking Rihanna (Duret). The couple separated in the aftermath, but recent media reports have them back together. This sends teens a confusing message about domestic violence. It gives them the idea that if you love each other enough, you can work through situations like this. People are asking questions like: Is there such as thing as Facebook Addiction Disorder? The fact of the matter is it’s not so much a disorder, but it is a form of addiction. Mental Health Experts around the world are probing the dark side of social media.
“When people become too comfortable talking behind a computer they end up being uncomfortable talking in face-to-face. Lots of awkward teens out there that don’t know how to keep a conversation going anymore.” (Goorahoo). We are in an era where Internet devices are always on and meeting face-to-face is becoming increasingly rare as people choose to meet screen-to-screen. There are some very valuable things about social media and networking, and there are also some dangers.
Historically, the changes have been in musical taste and style of dress. Now it has to do with technology and the use of technology to deal with social relations. (Pilieci). Facebook, (Figure 4) has more than 800 million users accessing it regularly, and roughly 425 million accessing the site using a mobile device. There are 18 million Canadians on Facebook–more than half our population and with that more than 12 million of them visit the site daily. On a per-capita basis, [Figure 4] [Figure 4]
Canada has the highest number of Facebook users in the world. The average Canadian has 225 “friends” on the social network, though recent studies from the University of Waterloo have shown that as many as half of our “friends” are people we don’t even really know. (Pilieci) Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, outlined the results of some recent research, which also points to the darker side of social media. He found that Teens using Facebook have more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including anti-social behaviours.
Some psychologists are calling this Facebook Addiction Disorder. This is basically when people are afraid to disconnect from social media services because they think they’re going to missing something important. While older groups may be using it to see pictures of family members or brag about their latest accomplishments, younger generations are using it to gossip. (Pilieci). It’s also a danger because as soon as something is on the Internet it can never be erased.
In a way the social media is actually making us sick. It constructs the indication that the unhealthiest relationships are normal, and that spending five hours a day on a network is reasonable. It corrupts the way we socialize and get closer to other people. To a certain extent, teens are allowing themselves to have open profiles with private information that anyone can have access to. They are not only endangering themselves but potentially also their ‘225 facebook friends.’
The Aftermath and Physical Damage
Suicide can date back to as early as 500 BCE where in the Greek colony of Ceos, citizens over age 60 years or incapacitated by illness are allowed to commit suicide by drinking state-provided poppy juice or hemlock. Fast-forwarding to1980, in a 17-month period, 28 teenagers took their own lives in Chicago’s privileged North Shore suburbs. Researchers reveal statistics that show rising signs of violent discontent among youth from affluent families. (ProQuest). Bullying is a major aspect to teen suicide. (Figure 5). “Bullying will be a HUGE problem no matter where you’re from. When you’re bullied you feel like there is no way out. You get pushed so far to the edge that you give up and just kill yourself. This is happening more and more often because of our accesses to technology and instant communication.” (Goorahoo).
Teens have this tendency to want to feel in power. As soon as they have power, it’s a constant battle to sustain their title. Bullies will torment their victim into such a deep state of depression that they will begin having suicidal thoughts. The exact causes of suicide are complex, with an interplay of psychological, biological, social and environmental factors. However about 95% of cases spring from mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia. (Picard)
Many people, especially the young, keep their suffering a secret because they don’t know where or who to turn to. The media renders a lot of help hotlines and prevention programs but how much are they really enforcing it? School is the ideal setting for prevention. School Boards are bombarded with requests to implement health-promotion programs, and suicide-prevention lectures; however, there is little evidence that any of this is very effective.
Those who routinely cut-themselves are usually victims of some form of bullying and find that by harming themselves it releases their emotions. Whether they are gay, lesbians, victims of sexual abuse, or just people of a certain culture. Nevertheless, young men are still about five times more likely to die of suicide than young women. (Picard) Media also plays a role in this because of the way men are anticipated to act. They feel the need to persistently have this macho, egotistical persona but what studies now show is that men can be just about as self-conscious as women. Teen boys hide their emotions, feelings and thoughts a lot more than teen girls. Especially when they are with their friends. This is because the media displays the impression of a sensitive man as a homosexual. In most cases, this is not true, of course.
All of these bottled up emotions eventually leads to substance and drug abuse. The media blames movies and television shows for this, but those things are the media. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the world, within the United States alone 23 percent of high school students said they’d recently smoked marijuana, making it more popular than cigarettes. (Ritter) Sometimes the habit is developed straight out of the teen’s home or family, but for the most part teen’s smoke simply to have something to do with their friends. (Figure 6) Drinking, on the other hand, mainly has to do with family difficulties. Teens use it as a stress reliever or to forget certain memories. “Even parent’s drinking occasionally may be influential to their kids without even knowing it.” (Kennedy).
Along with all of this comes the increasing number of non-active teenagers. With fast food restaurants frequently being built within a mile radius of most homes it becomes a very convenient place to dine. Teens enjoy going to fast food restaurants for two main reasons: to eat a meal for a cheap price, and to be away from home for a little while. For children of normal weight, the risk of developing high blood pressure or “pre” high blood pressure rose 6% for every 1,000 milligrams of sodium consumed per day. But the risk rose 74% for children who were overweight. (McKay) Since fast food restaurants are in such convenient places for teenagers to just pop in and eat a burger, they will do it. It’s not only extremely unhealthy because most fast food restaurant’s meat is processed but teens won’t do much physical activity afterwards to work it off.
Obese teens not only make easy targets for bullies, in the case of girls, they’re more likely to turn into bullies themselves, according to the findings of a Canadian study on the social fallout of being overweight. (Kirkey) Since a teenager’s priorities have changed, so have their extracurricular activities. Teens are more concerned with shopping and instant messaging one another than maintaining a healthy diet. According to Statistics Canada, 17 per cent of children in Canada are overweight; nine per cent are obese. (Kirkey)
Although, there’s maintaining a healthy diet but then there’s going to the extremes with not eating at all. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa may be caused by environmental factors, which switch on specific genes that trigger the dysfunctional eating behaviour. (Cresswell) Many teens will not allow themselves to eat because of what someone said, or something they saw on the television. This occurs in men also, however men don’t stop eating they go on protein diets. This can also be harmful to their body because your body needs some fat in order to function.
Media surrounds teens everywhere they go whether they like to acknowledge it or not. Most teens are becoming more aware of their surroundings and the influences around them by the age of fifteen but do not think much of it until around eighteen. In today’s world people cannot live without media. Thus, we know that various media and its artifacts can have a lot of effects on our daily lives, our society, and us. We must understand that a lot of what we see on television, hear on the radio, or see in the print are there in order for us to change our minds about certain views or opinions. So, to fully understand and comprehend the nature and effects of the production techniques of the media and its effects on the teenage mind we must consider the many aspects of media.
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Williams, Tee-Ara. “Are These Movie Ads a Big Mistake?” Teen Voices. 08 2004: 56-57. Print.
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