London’s most popular playwright Oscar Wilde once uttered that art imitates life. However, there exists a case where life imitates the art as well. The omnipresent presence of the media ensures that what is heard and seen on the big screen will greatly impact the conduct of adolescents, conscious of it or not. Teenagers are curious by nature and their minds are dangerously malleable. Confronted with many life choices and challenges, they always look for counsel on they can live their lives in society. So since the media is a dominant force in the lives of adolescents, they are particularly prone to believing its perception of behavior as acceptable or normal. There is a wide array of empirical literature on the power of media on the behavior of teenagers. The literature mostly focuses on media’s negative impact. The literature that will be discussed in this essay express the viewpoint that the power of the media, particularly music, television and movies, mainly inspires the way youth respond and think. So since these forms of media can have negative social implications, parents must learn how they affect their youth so they can counteract the negative behavior their children gain. Parents and guardians must supervise youth’s intake and understanding of these forms of media since they can have a negative impact on the society’s youth, not only because it promotes violent behavior, but also endorses sexual disparity and unhealthy lifestyles.Order now
First, the word media must be defined. Media is all forms of mass communication: television, newspapers, and the internet. In Neil Postman’s text, Amusing Ourselves to Death, he claims that the population will outline what is right or wrong based on the media and the forms of communication in that society (27). In other words, their morals will be based off the ethics and standards that are predominantly seen in television or other forms of media. The media has put itself in charge of influencing the minds of adolescents. Most adolescents devote all of their waking hours to playing on their XBOX, watching MTV and mingling on the plethora of social networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram. Music is also a major influence on youth because of its predominance on the radio and how easy it is to obtain on the internet. All of these forms of media can have negative social consequences. These consequences have the capability to teach the youth the wrong way to behave, reason, eat, and feel about themselves. Suspicions about the adverse effects of media initially began in the 1940s, not too long after television began broadcasting violent programs. By 1972, adequate amounts of experimental proof had been gathered for the United States Surgeon General to remark that violent television can have hostile effects on specific individuals of society (Anderson). Specifically, immoral media can adversely influence the youth. One of the adverse effects is the inclination to be violent.
Violence on the big screen can convert into violence in the real world. Violence in the real world is the effect of adolescents watching too many violent programs in mass media. Viewing too much of one thing can translate into desensitization of what is being viewed. Desensitization is defined by when a person is no longer affected emotionally by seeing violence when they are exposed to it. According to a longitudinal report found in the Washington Post, up to 50% of television programs featured some form of violence, 73% the perpetrators of the violent acts go unpunished on television, no pain was shown in 58% of the violent acts, and less than 10% of programs follow a peaceful route of action to solve a problem (Hawkes). The report shows the abundance of violence there is on television today. The way violence is portrayed in media can make adolescents believe violence is pain-free, and can then cause them to want to commit those violent acts. More specifically, when they say the perpetrator get away, an adolescent may think hurting someone is acceptable and punishment-free. Ultimately, the adolescent’s moral reasoning will conclude that aggression is good and sooner or later, they will be inclined to commit violent acts. An example of life imitating art is the North Hollywood shootout. This event was the result of violent media being prevalent and promoted in society. The culprits of the North Hollywood shootout were directly inspired by the movie HEAT (Bryant). A copy of the movie was found in the house of the shooters and the actions of the shooting mirrored the scenes in the movie, including killing of cops and civilians and the bank heist (Michael Moore). The events of the shootout are a striking illustration of how mass killings in the media can have a tremendous effect on the actions of the adolescents in society.
The way the media presents sexual issues can negatively affect the way adolescents view these matters. The most prevailing sexual matter portrayed negatively in the media is the approval of mistreating women. Exploitation of woman can be seen in some rap songs where disrespect against woman is celebrated. Rap music is one of the most popular genres of music today and it was created in the late 1970s as an outlet for underprivileged African-Americans in the inner-city to vent about their hardships. When rap music became mainstream the theme of the messages dramatically changed from the rhymers talking about their difficulties to talking about their luxuries. These luxuries include excessive amounts of money, overpriced cars, and their gorgeous woman. Sexism appeared at this point. These artists began to rap about the exploitation of woman in their songs. Here is an extract from the Academy Award winning song “Its Hard out Here for a Pimp”,
“Wait, I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too,
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you.
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin’,
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin’ change off these women”.
Excerpt from “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” – Three 6 Mafia (MetroLyrics)
“It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” is the defining illustration of sexism in music today. The rap group Three 6 Mafia likened women to hookers and glorified how they made money off of them. Since the rap group was well-known at one point, their fans would want to emulate them and accept that exploiting women is cool. Cinema is also a grand example where aggressiveness toward women is deemed as an okay act. In recent times, a study reported that after college students viewed movies where women were lay opened to abuse, the results showed the male viewer’s approval of aggression against women increased (Barker). The results of the study sadly showed that the media has a strong impression on the way adolescents and teenagers accept sexual matters such as aggression against women.
The media affects the way adolescents view health issues as well. Television, magazines, and films are filled with stunning, thin, and young celebrities that the media portrays as the epitome of perfection. These pictures may show perfection, but they are usually highly processed and edited through computer programs like Photoshop to make the individuals look more attractive. These fake images are splattered throughout all forms of media and adolescents are forced to see unachievable pictures of attractiveness. This may be the catalyst that cause adolescents to resort to hazardous diets such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa occurs when an individual starves themselves intentionally to lose a few pounds. Bulimia occurs when someone makes themselves throw up the food they just ate so they will not gain that weight. The reason these diet methods even exist may be due to the fact the media forces society to see images of unattainable beauty on billboards, magazine, and television every day. Adolescents may try to achieve these good looks by making themselves tear up their bodies.
There has been a decrease in terms of morality of the younger generation in society due to the increasing impact of the media. Respect for their peers, especially woman, has been deteriorating in the last few years, with poor morals in society being accepted and celebrated. This was demonstrated with the majority of rap music promoting the exploitation of woman and being celebrated in the Academy Awards. Also, society has seen an increase in violent acts that were inspired by mainstream movies, such as the Hollywood Shootout. The prevalence of adolescents participating in hazardous diet methods such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia is due to them trying to emulate the media has had a negative impact on their health. These effects can result in the breaking down of morals and the general health of society if leaders do not find a solution to ease the negative outcomes.
Even with all of the negativity portrayed in the media, the media can teach adolescents some positive lessons that will have positive effects on their behavior. More specifically, advertisements and television programs can be a good educator (Wright et al). For example, alcohol companies spend 10% of their budget on ads warning the public about the hazards of drunk driving. However, that 10% may not be enough to offset the negative messages in most commercials. Of the 20,000 commercials the average child sees every year, more than 60% of the commercials promote sugary cereals and fatty foods (American Academy of Pediatrics). Studies have shown that ads targeting children are profoundly influential and the more they see them, the more they are influenced (Strasburger VC. Children). Regarding television, watching Sesame Street is a grand example of how young children can learn valued life lessons such as cultural harmony, simple mathematics and the alphabet through an informative television format. The educational value of Sesame Street has been proven in studies to increase the reading and learning abilities of its viewers (Huston et al). On the other hand, television can take valuable time away from reading and schoolwork. Current experiments have shown that even one to two hours of daily, unmonitored television watching by young children can have significant deleterious effects on their academic ability, such as reading and comprehension (Strasburger VC. Does television).
Even though the media can have some positive effects, it is still wise to monitor children’s understanding and comprehension of what they see.This essay has shown how the messages seen in movies, television programs, and magazines can have the ability to mold how adolescents think and shape their values by which they choose to uphold. In order to effectively counter or moderate the media’s influence, parents should pay closer attention to what their children view. The family should take the initiative to be involved with their children so they can gain access into their minds. It is crucial, but not sufficient, to petition for improved quality of television programs and to place restrictions on what children view. Mostly, children need persuasive arguments from us along with guided questions to help them comprehend what they see on television. Outright demanding they stop watching their favorite shows or movies may cause the child to rebel and be defensive about their viewing and listening choices. So instead of preaching, give Susan Vogt’s proposal a try: “take tips from the media and talk in sound bites. Decipher the core message and reduce it to a short sentence. Say it to your child straight in their eyes and stop” (Vogt). Then, rather than trying to force the message, listen and reflect on the child’s response.
Most likely, society can never totally remove media’s influence; though, parents can counter them with persuasive alternative points of view. Parents can use movies as catalysts for debates about relationship choices and consequences. Good questions should be asked to inspire critical thinking. The children can discuss and evaluate how the media portrays certain situations. Parents should arm themselves with the critical thinking skills to speak and listen clearly, and encourage critical thinking in their youth to offset the effects of the negative influences in the media. This will lead the younger generation to know the difference between life and art.