Just fifty years ago, it would have been unimaginable the wealth of shared knowledge and experiences that modern technology has made possible. For all of its beauty and brilliance in constant conflict with its wicked ugliness, the mass media that has flourished from this technological boom reflects life in its most honest form. It is as difficult to shield young people from the influences of mass media as it is impossible to shield them from the realities of life. No longer can parents govern the impact that mass media has on their children – it has leeched too far into everyday life to be moderated and maintained without exempting the child from valuable experiences and growth as an individual. After all, the information absorbed at a young age shapes the foundation of one’s future. In studying the history and origin of contemporary culture, Margaret Mead makes the claim that mass media has the greatest impact on a child’s upbringing. More specifically, children are above all raised by television, books, and magazines, not by their parents. The epitome of the mass media culture, television is a massive part of the everyday lives of children from the earliest age and triumphs over parents in upbringing. A “safe” babysitter, parents use television to keep their children entertained and out of trouble. With such ease in letting one’s child free in front of a screen, many parents with such hectic lifestyles have become increasingly reliant on the television.
With the correct programming, television has its place as a healthy part of a child’s upbringing. For example, shows such as Dragon Tales teach problem-solving strategies and the idea that failures are acceptable and help one to grow as an individual. This inspires children to appreciate achievement of any kind: whether great or slight, partial or complete. When children look up to the characters on the shows they love, they tend to imitate their actions and morals more so than those of their parents, simply because these fictional figures are more relatable to the child. Other shows, such as Teen Mom, feature characters facing trouble of some kind and in turn dealing with resolve, emphasizing that every action is reciprocated with an equal and opposite reaction. Young people can analyze how the lives of teenage parents are changed entirely after their baby is born, and will take more caution in ensuring that this does not happen to them.
Television discusses issues such as sex and relationships which parents and kids both feel uncomfortable mentioning; it is for this reason that it has a more powerful role in raising children than their parents. As one of the most prevalent mediums of mass media, television has a profound influence on children in contemporary society. Books are also a large part of a child’s upbringing as the advice they give is often much stronger than anything that parents can. By the time they learn how to read, children become engrossed in the magical worlds they discover in books. Learning from the mistakes and resolves of the characters in books, they subconsciously relate the problems they face to their own situations. The core of popular children’s books, the Harry Potter series communicates many valuable life lessons such as the power of friendship and the importance of shaping one’s own future through their actions. Another prominent children’s book, The Giving Tree enlightens children of compassion in its most pure and honest state.
Metaphorically, the tree represents the boy’s parents as it gives the boy all that it can to ensure his happiness with no further reward to them other than the very pleasure of his contentment. Opponents to the opinion that books instill positive lessons and morals in children may claim that children might not fully understand the ideas at the time and parental guidance would be much more straightforward and effective. However, children remember the basic plots of books and as they mature, they discover their more implicit purposes. The fond memories they carry from these books evoke tender images of their childhood, an attachment makes them far more likely to be influenced by the lessons of books than of their parents. The positive influences that books inspire shape children to grow up to become better adults. Magazines are also a main contributor in the impact of media on children as they bring up topics that parents feel uncomfortable discussing. Many magazines geared towards young girls provide maternal influence, offering advice on relationships, beauty, and health. One example of this is Seventeen Magazine, which provides an advice column in which young readers send their concerns to the magazine, and the writers return some responses with their advice, likewise as a mother would.
This advice triumphs over anything that parents can provide as young people are more inclined to listen to “professionals” than their parents. However, magazines do not always inspire young people in the most positive way. The covers of Vogue feature the barren bodies of emaciated women and glamorize their small frames, unattainable for most body types. Such magazines promote self-destructive habits such as eating disorders and low self-esteem as well as the desire to grow up prematurely. When women that many young girls look up to, such as Miley Cyrus, pose for these magazines, it incites girls to believing that to attain fame and success they must be stick thin and fall in the precise criteria of what society deems to be “beautiful”. In such a vulnerable state, their young minds are more inclined to imitate the actions of celebrities than their parents for as much as they tell their child that they are beautiful, it is more meaningful in their eyes to receive the attention and approval of the masses.
In raising children, the power of magazines is unmatched to that of parents. In contemporary society, parents have a weaker influence over the upbringing of their children than the mass media does. While parents do contribute to much of the molding of their children, media does so to a much greater degree. By teaching valuable lessons in a way that truly resonates with a child, television shows and books have a huge impact on children. Magazines are also a resource offering parental guidance, however, the influence they have are not always beneficial to young people. With minds of such plasticity, children adopt the ideas that mass media thrusts upon them. However, the question still stands: is its impact raising children to become better adults, or to be but another clone of the grand scheme that is mass media?