Media like television, movies, newspapers, magazines and videogames have a great influence on modern lives but more so on the younger generation. Teenagers today are surrounded by all forms of media and much of their time is spent on them. According to the University of Illinois’ journal, The Gateway, teenagers can spend anything between 6 to 8 hours in a day on the use of media. Majority of this time is spent viewing television, about 2 to 4 hours in a day (if time watching MTV is not counted). Television is meant to be a great source of entertainment. It brings you a host of channels that allow easy access to news, music, movies, documentaries, soap operas and much more. Watching television showing together can make for a good daily family activity. However, teens prefer watching on certain channels and shows. Reality shows like America’s Top Model rate high among teen viewing along with shows like Gossip Girls and Heroes. The music channel MTV is one of the most watched by the youth.
TV Promotes Smoking in Youth
Although censorship of shows provides rating for shows considered as bad influences on children and children, viewing at home is often not controlled. According to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71% of 8 to 18 year olds have a TV in their own rooms while 37% of them have access to cable or satellite television. In 2005, Roberts and Foehr’s Rideout stated that in families having children between 7th and 12th grade, there were no restrictions on what was being viewed on TV. Even though there is a an on tobacco ads being broadcast on TV channels in the US, tobacco companies often lace products within shows as means for extending their market. As a result, youth are regularly exposed to shows that have popular characters smoking. According to a nicotine and tobacco research conducted in 2005, children who watch unrestricted television start smoking at a much earlier than those who don’t. Children often see role models in celebrities. Watching a hero smoke on screen leads them to believe that if it is acceptable for him o be smoking then they can smoke too. Youngsters end up mimicking the things the see on TV.
Television and Youth Violence
According to the AAP “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.” TV shows are becoming increasingly violent in content. Several shows are based on murder mysteries and some, like Dexter that airs on Showtime, even go to the extent of glorifying serial killers. Most reality shows are scripted to include violent behavior while abusive language is almost a norm. Exposure to violence at young age makes children believe such behavior is not only acceptable but they consider it to be ‘cool’ to use abusive language.
Media Encouraging Bad Behavior in Youth
With television shows filled with acts of violence and tobacco companies using the media to promote smoking among youth, the influences of media on teenagers has reached unprecedented levels. Shows mix up the moral concepts of good versus bad which has led to children growing up confused on what is acceptable behavior. With celebrities endorsing weight loss and promoting the concept ‘thin is in’, youngsters often take extreme measures to stay thin and this can result in eating disorders like anorexia. A fashion house made Lindsay Lohan wear their creation at her court hearing and their sales soared! Celebrities like Lohan and Britney Spears have massive fan following among female teens while P.Diddy is popular among young men. When they get involved in theft, alcoholism, drunken driving and carrying illegal fire arms, they promote such behavior in their fans. The media adds fuel to the fire by glorifying their acts. It is vital for the fight against bad media influences on youth that parents control television viewing among their children from an early age.
Generation M²: Media in the lives of 8- to 18- year olds. The Kaiser Family Foundation. 2010. Web. 6 Mar 2011.
Gutschoven K, Van Den Bulck J, Nicotine Tobacco Research; Television viewing and age at smoking initiation: does a relationship exist between higher levels of television viewing and earlier onset of smoking, 2005. Print.
Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, 2005. Print
American Academy of Pediatrics: Media Violence. Committee of Public Education. 2001. Web. 6 Mar 2011.