AP English IV Period
15 February 2010
The Media’s Influence on Adolescents
In today’s day and age, multimedia is a central focus of teen society. From television advertisements broadcasting the latest Apple-product to magazine covers featuring an “airbrushed” supermodel, American teens are bombarded with images that can serve as negative influences towards their self-esteem. The purpose of this research paper will be to analyze the American media of the twenty-first century and will propose ways in which the media’s influence on teens can become the positive messages they need.
Perhaps one of the most controversial, if not then certainly the most contributive, media influences is television. According to a Nielsen study released in 2008, the average American household watches television eight hours a day (Semuels). If this is finding is true, it means that the average American family watches anywhere between fifty-six to sixty hours of television per week. With that being said, in a 2005 study conducted by Kjersten Oligney and Linda Klepacki on teen sexual behavior, it was determined that the average American teen watches only three hours of television a day (4). Regardless of how minimal the amount of hours appear, the overall impact of television on teens is still negative. In a special article published by Rolling Stone Magazine, teen-interest shows display the following subliminal messages about young people to viewers:
(1) They all appear “sexy,”
(2) They are all Caucasian,
(3) They do not seem to have parents,
(4) The do not need to have an education,
(5) They find high school uninteresting,
(6) They live in a world that does not bear a resemblance to reality at all (Media Awareness Network, 1) Realistically speaking, adults are able to comprehend that reality is not as it appears on television. But for teenagers doing without parents and positive role models to keep them on the right path, what appears on the screen before them could become for them, one of two things: (1) a utopia, or escape from an undesirable life, or (2) an influential source that may encourage them into social rebellion. In regards to the first suggestion, let us take for instance the fascination America has with reality television. Originally surfacing in 1992 with MTV’s debut of The Real World, the reality show has become a “…cultural phenomenon and is here to stay” (Parents Television Council 1). Since the early nineties, reality television has transformed into what can only be described as the department store of television genres. From Keeping Up with the Kardashians to American Idol, Americans can watch the lives of others in virtually any setting and on any channel. For teenagers, this is especially true due to the large amount of reality shows geared towards their age demographic. One example of such is MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen. On My Super Sweet Sixteen a camera crew from MTV studios follows wealthy American teen’s weeks prior to their “ultimate birthday party.” Many of the teens featured on the show are the children of very successful members of society and appear to get whatever their hearts desire. From five foot cakes to unreleased Range Rovers, to custom dresses by A-list designers and dates with celebrities, shows like sixteen give teens the idea that life is only about what one possesses and not about what is in the heart. This idea is proven by the way in which featured parents on sixteen do little to punish or correct their children when they show disrespect towards themselves and to other adults. For teens television is a major source of information about sex. A survey conducted in 1997 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 61 percent of young teens ages 13-15 rated entertainment media as their top source of information sexuality and sex health. (Media Awareness) This shows that television sometimes tells teen that it is ok to have sex no matter what age...
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