Mass Media’s Influence on Americas’ Youth Does mass media influence children and teenagers more than their friends and family? That’s the question mainstream America is asking. America’s youth today is faced with an issue that adolescents in past decades never experienced. Young people today are flooded with media such as television, music, movies, magazines, newspapers, internet, and more. Media is overly accessible and virtually impossible to hide from in a world now dependent on it. The main concern that always comes up in the discussion of mass media is its many negative impacts on children and teens in American society.
Mass media is a dominant force in the United States and across the world that shapes and molds young people in a variety of ways, creating ideas and theories that hold huge influence in the perceptions and actions of these adolescents. Many times these perceptions and ideals shown through mass media are very harmful to the development of children and teenagers in the United States. Mass media in the United States lacks government intervention and regulation. One of the reasons that there may not be strict enough rules for mass media could be that most broadcast companies in the United States are privately owned.
These private companies receive no government funding. For example, public radio and public television are funded and controlled by government. Therefore, the government holds little leverage in telling these corporations what to do. Mass media’s effect in regards to violent behavior shows why the government regulation of mass media needs to be stricter than they currently are. The watching of violence is a very popular form of entertainment in mainstream America. A crowd of pedestrians enjoy a street fight just as the Greek enjoyed watching Spartans battle in the arena.
Boxing and Wrestling are one of the most popular spectator sports on television in the United States and around the world. Violence is the most frequently depicted genre in television and movies. News programs provide extensive coverage of violent crimes just to bump up their ratings. Another way these kids are viewing this violence is through their videogames. Videogames such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty are among the most popular videogame titles on the market. According to CNN Grand Theft Auto sold 3. million copies and generated $310 million dollars in sales in its first day. The more violent the videogames are, the more copies they sell. Just imagine how different things might be in a world without children playing violent videogames or watching gory movies nearly every day. In a research study reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health the results reported were that on 23 channels recorded more than half of the material was filled with violence (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Many of these television shows that contain violent material depict unrealistic effects.
For example, there could be an extremely horrific gun shooting or stabbing in a movie and the character lives. However, the reality is that a gun shooting or a stabbing will most likely result in death. One common example of violent behavior being glorified through television and movies is bank robberies. These movies make robbing banks seem appealing because of the ease in which they take the money while underplaying the consequences that go along with a serious crime such as this. Many parents observe their children and teenagers copying behaviors that they have picked up in films and TV shows.
It is quite apparent that this process leads to a greater frequency of violence. Mass media’s influence on sexuality is another controversial topic. Media is one way America’s youth learn and see sexual behavior. “Adolescence is the stage when individuals develop independent identities by disengaging from their parents and interacting more extensively with their peers” (Paek et al. 2011). Considering that at this stage adolescents are not guided by their parents as much as in prior stages of their life it becomes increasingly important that the mass media influences adolescent sexuality.
The mass media are an increasingly accessible way for people to learn about and view sexual behavior. The media is especially important and influential for teenagers as they begin developing their own sexual beliefs and patterns of behavior. Media is often the only influence in these young people’s life as parents and schools remain reluctant to discuss sexual topics. In the United States, young people spend 6 to 7 hours each day on average with some form of media (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Brown and Witherspoon report, “almost all teens have their own source of music … and more than wo-thirds have their own television … in their bedroom” (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Many of those televisions also are hooked up to cable. These numbers will have surely increased over the past decade if history repeats itself. A report published in the Journal of Sex Research concluded that mass media has a profound influence on adolescent sexual attitudes and sexual practices (Brown 2002). The availability of sexual content continues to increase. According to Forbes Magazine internet pornography is now a billion dollar per year industry.
Sexual content is flooding through mainstream media. It is clear in regards to sexuality in media that it influences the way adolescents think and behave sexually. Media also effects how early young people begin to start having sexual activities. Young people interpret sexual media content differently than adults; they also evaluate and incorporate what they are seeing into their own lives. “Both children and adults have been reported to believe the media is a central source of information on sex and sexuality for young people” (Werner-Wilson, Fitzharris, & Morrisey 2004).
Considering that adults are reportedly looking to the internet as a resource for sexual questions or curiosity it’s easy to understand why children are also looking to the internet as a sexual resource. Young teens in America are having sex earlier, and with more partners because of what they see in the media. It’s simply natural to behave the way you see others behaving. Another disturbing effect caused by mass media is in regards to health. Mass media continues to put out content that does nothing to promote good health and a lot to cause unhealthy behavior among young people.
A study on media and American teenagers showed that 8 to 18 year-olds spend 6 to 7 hours a day with some type of media and over 20 hours a week just with music (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). The most dangerous health effects caused by media are on young women. Young women all over the United States and the world are starving themselves in an effort to become skinnier. The reason these women are striving to become skinnier is because of the perception that mass media has created on what beauty is.
In a study shown by the Society for Adolescent Medicine, nearly one quarter of college girls are engaging in some form of anorexic behavior (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Not only has this standard of what a woman should look like affected these women physically but it has also completely diminished many of these women’s self-esteem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health anorexia often develops during teen years or young adulthood. Since it is already known that the teen years are when adolescents are most impressionable, it makes perfect sense that anorexia often develops during this period.
The full name for this disorder is anorexia nervosa. The characteristics of anorexia include emaciation, starvation, self-esteem issues, and fear of weight gain. The effects of this eating disorder can be deadly. Some of the most serious problems include brain damage and organ failure. Tobacco is largely depicted in the media. According to the National Institute of Health, people who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time quitting. About 30% of youth smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease.
Teen smokers are more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs they are more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety disorders and depression. A research study conducted by Hye-Jin Peak, Albert Gunther, Douglas McLeod, and Thomas Hove explored the degree that peer perceptions effect adolescents’ truthfully reporting whether or not they have been exposed to anti-smoking efforts thru mass media (Peak, Gunther, McLeod, and Hove 2011). This study also evaluated how peer perceptions affect adolescents’ effect whether or not the teens smoke or how they feel about smoking (Peak et al. 011). The research study results explained that media influence on adolescents showed a strong correlation between increased media and increased smoking in adolescents (Peak et al. 2011). Considering the research results leads one to believe that if stricter laws were made on commercials for tobacco then maybe fewer kids would be smoking. If the United States Government examined how other nations regulate mass media they may be enlightened. “Recognition of the harmful effects of smoking has led many countries to restrict tobacco advertising.
In some, such as New Zealand and Norway, cigarette consumption decreased significantly after the bans” (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Media Portrayal of cigarette popularity contributes to the likelihood of adolescents beginning to smoke. As of today there are some restrictions on tobacco marketing, but these restrictions are very weak and hardly effective. As for image advertising, the agreement does not ban actual photos of people trying to entice adolescents to start smoking, only the cartoon images for cigarette advertising (Petty 1999).
All advertisements are still allowed to picture people (Petty 1999). “Beer and wine are also among the most heavily advertised products on television and radio” (Brown and Witherspoon 2002). Considering that beer and wine are so heavily advertised in the mass media main stream America should really be considering the impact of alcohol use on United States’ adolescent population. According to the National Institute of Health there were 2. 8 million alcohol related injury deaths among 18 to 24 year-old college students from 1998 to 2001.
If the Mass Media didn’t idealize alcohol as glamorous then certainly there would not have been as many tragic unnecessary deaths of young people during this 3 year period. The number of negative effects caused by mass media is extraordinary. Media negatively affects individual’s self-concept, attitudes, and behavior. It is impossible not to see how much the negative effects on youth out-weigh the positives. What can be done to change the status quo media has set in the U. S.? Focusing on a variety of categories; not just violence, sexuality, and self-esteem may be helpful.
Perhaps if from the time children became toddlers they are not able to see Hustler and Penthouse magazines that contain explicit nudity at a party store or gas station counter that would be step one in gaining some kind of protection or censorship for our children. The world is constantly evolving. “Young people today are growing up in a world unlike anything previous generations have experienced. Today’s youth have greater access to forms of communication than ever before” (Brown and Cantor 2000). Surely the future of America’s adolescents is extremely important to most all Americans.
Therefore, it only makes sense that since mass media is changing drastically then the rules regulating mass media must change drastically too. Works Cited Brown, Jane. “Mass Media Influences on Sexuality. ” The Journal of Sex Research 39. 1, Promoting Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (Feb. , 2002), pp. 42-45. Jstor. Oakland Community University. 28 Jul. 2011 Brown, Jane, and Elizabeth M. Witherspoon. “The Mass Media and American Adolescents’ Health. ” The Journal of Adolescent Health 31. 6s, (2002) pp. 154-167. Oakland Community University. 8 Jul. 2011 Brown, Jane, and Joanne Cantor. “An Agenda for Research on Youth and the Media”. The Journal of Adolescent Health 27. 2s, (2000) pp. 1-7. Oakland Community University. 28 Jul. 2011 Paek, Hye-Jin, Albert C. Gunther, Douglas M. McCleod, and Thomas Hove. “How Adolescents Perceived Media Influence on Peers Affects Smoking Decisions. ” The Journal of Consumer Affairs pp. 123-146. (2011). Wayne State University. 12 Aug. 2011 Petty, Ross. “Tobacco Marketing Restrictions in the Multistate Attorneys General Settlement: Is This Good Public Policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 18. 2, (1999), pp. 249-257. Jstor. Oakland Community University. 6 Aug. 2011 Thompson, Kenneth, and Anita Sharma. “Secularization, Moral Regulation and the Mass Media. ” The British Journal of Sociology 49. 3, (1998), pp. 434-455. Jstor. Oakland Community University. 6 Aug. 2011 Works Cited Werner-Wilson, Ronald Jay, Jennifer Lynn Fitzharris, and Kathleen M. Morrissey. “Adolescent and Parent Perceptions of Media Influence on Adolescent Sexuality. ” Adolescence 39. 154 (2004). Wayne State University. 12 Aug. 011 CNN on the Web. 14 August 2011. <http://articles. cnn. com/2008-05-08/tech/gta. sales_1_ea-sales-grand-theft-auto-iv? _s=PM:TECH>. NIH on the Web. 14 August 2011 <http://www. nlm. nih. gov/medlineplus/smokingandyouth. html>. NIMH on the Web. 14 August 2011 <http://www. nimh. nih. gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/complete-index. shtml>. FORBES on the Web. 14 August 2011 <http://www. forbes. com/2001/05/25/0524porn. html>. Web. August 14 <http://www. collegedrinkingprevention. gov/media/Mag_and_Prev_ARPH_April_2005. pdf>.