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Mass Media Influences on Adolescent Development

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Phillip Holmes

on 11 April 2011

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Transcript of Mass Media Influences on Adolescent Development

According to social learning theory, novel behaviors are modeled by others, observed, and then reproduced (Bandura, 1977). A primary challenge of adolescence is
self-definition (Erikson, 1959) Cognitive Social Learning Theory and its earlier variant, Social Learning Theory, predict that people will imitate behaviors of others when those models are rewarded or not punished for their behavior. Modeling will occur more readily when the model is perceived as attractive and similar and the modeled behavior is possible, salient, simple, prevalent, and has functional value (Bandura, 1994). Tests of the hypothesis have found, for example, that junior and senior high school students who frequently viewed daytime soap operas were more likely than those who watched less often to believe that single mothers have relatively easy lives, have good jobs, and do not live in poverty (Larson, 1996). According to Cultivation Theory, television is the most powerful storyteller in the culture, one that continually repeats the myths and ideologies, the facts and patterns of relationships that define and legitimize the social order. According to the cultivation hypothesis, a steady dose of television, over time, acts like the pull of gravity toward an imagined center. This pull results in a shared set of conceptions and expectations about reality among otherwise diverse viewers (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1994). Sexuality,
Mass Media,
Adolescent Development Exposure to stereotypical images of gender and sexuality in music videos has been found to increase older adolescents' acceptance of non-marital sexual behavior and interpersonal violence (Greeson & Williams, 1986; Kalof, 1999). Heavier television viewers also have been found to have more negative attitudes toward remaining a virgin (Courtright & Baran, 1980). A special issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (October, 1995) linked media selection and interpretation with developmental tasks, such as socialization, self-representation, and information seeking regarding developmental issues, especially sex. Songs about love and romance have always been popular. However, the music popular with today's youth is often harsh and sexually explicit, and many fear it is contributing to teen pregnancy, sexual assault, substance abuse, depression, and suicide (Brown & Hendee, 1989; Gore, 1987). What developmental theories
explain the influence
of these messages? References

Avert. (2011). Sex education that works. Retrieved April 8, 2011, fromhttp://www.avert.org/sex-education.htm

Brown, J.D. (2002). Mass media influences on sexuality - Statistical Data Included. Journal of Sex Research. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_1_39/ai_87080439/

garrettgeer1590, . (2008). Sex in the Media. YouTube, LLC. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from http://ww.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps4-ZEpTlBo&feature=player_embedded#at=13

Hart, E. M. (2002). Teens, sex, and media. Media Literacy Clearinghouse. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://www.frankwbaker.com/mediaLitEd.pdf

Korn, D.Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/srhonorsprog/5/

MediaWise . (n.d.). Shocking Facts. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://mediawisechoices.com/shocking.htm#youthAndSex

Steele, J.R. (1999). Teenage Sexuality and Media Practice: Factoring in the Influences of Family, Friends, and School - Statistical Data Included. Journal of Sex Research. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_4_36/ai_58459534/pg_17/?tag=content;col1

VideoSurf, Inc. (2011). Sigmund Freud Photo. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://www.videosurf.com/sigmund-freud-14831/photos/1228587216_3132

Western Journal of Medicine (2000). Adolescent sexuality and the media. Retrieved April 8, 2011 from

Yates, B. L. (2011). Media and health. University of West Georgia. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://www.westga.edu/~byates/mediaand.htm In today’s society adolescents are active consumers of media.
As technology has advanced so has the easy access to the varying types of media outlets. Individual experiences and outside influences from peers can have an impact on what media is selected by the adolescent. These factors will also determine how influential the messages are. Adolescent bodies mature before cognitive development and emotional maturity. During this time adolescents may also be seeking independence from their parents which leads to finding information from other sources such as television, movies, radio, or peers. This is a time when adolescents are establishing gender roles and sexual attitudes, as well as shaping sexual behaviors. This age group may be more vulnerable because the cognitive skills that allow them to critically analyze messages from the media and to make decisions based on the possible outcome is not fully developed
(Western, 2000).
Even in daytime television an adolescent can choose from many sexually explicit shows that portray premarital, extramarital, or teenage sex.
Adolescent girls often mimic relationships and direct behaviors after ( or based upon ) what they view on television. The positive spin the media portrays on certain behaviors outweighs the portrayal of the possible consequences such as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. What influence these media messages have on adolescent development? Sexual content in the media, “strongly correlates with negative adolescent and teen behaviors that carry physical, social, and emotional consequences” (Hart, 2002, para. 1). Sexual messages in the media often depict sexual behaviors with no consequences by using sex to sell or advertise products, and sexual storylines in films, television, and movies to boost viewer ratings. To adolescents, the messages the media conveys in regard to sexuality are often contradictory. According to Avert (2011), “some health messages emphasize the risks and dangers associated with sexual activity and some media coverage promotes the idea that being sexually active makes a person more attractive and mature” (para. 6). These sexual depictions and messages may persuade adolescents to believe that sexual activity is both acceptable and widespread (Hart, 2002). Media outlets can influence the attitudes, values, and beliefs of adolescents by exposing them to sex and sexuality (Avert, 2011). To combat the negative influence of sexual messages in the media, it is essential for teachers to educate students in media literacy. Media literacy encourages students to question what they view in the media as well as determine the effect of these messages and what impact they have on individuals and society (Hart, 2002). Focusing media literacy on developing the critical thinking and evaluative skills of students allows students to identify what they see, and challenge the inappropriate messages in a real-world context (Hart, 2002). The most effective way to teach students media literacy is by engaging each student in a way that allows him or her to evaluate the messages he or she sees in the media, and to discuss his or her discoveries (Avert, 2011). To address the negative media influence in relation to sexuality in the classroom, students will participate in two assignments. The first assignment will require students to locate and identify advertisements that focus on sex appeal to sell a product. Students will create a poster of the different advertisements they find in newspapers and magazines, and create a presentation about whether or not they think sex has any influence on the product itself. For example, advertisements that advertise deodorant by displaying sexual situations or people posing in sexual ways. As the students give the presentation, the teacher asks evaluative questions that encourage the student to compare the advertisement to real-life behaviors and situations (Yates, 2011). This exercise allows students to develop an awareness of the presence of sex in advertising, and a method to question and evaluate what is seen. The second activity will require students to watch and document the sexual behaviors and relationships found in a popular television show or movie. Each student will discuss his or her discoveries with the class, and explain how realistic the depictions found in the television show or movie are to real life. These discussions will help to, “reduce students’ anxieties about sex and help them feel more comfortable with their emotions and physical changes” (Yates, 2011, para. 10). How can teachers address these negative portrayals in mass media? Freud’s theory of Psychosexual Development relates every stage of a child’s development to a sexual stage. According to Freud, humans are constantly in a stage of development that revolves around an instinctual sexual appetite.

He believed that the sexual appetite in children had to be properly satisfied at each stage or the child would develop an unhealthy mental or personality disorder as an adult. Freud’s theory states that the fifth stage of psychosexual development, the genital stage, starts at puberty and continues throughout the adult life. According to MediaWise (n.d.),

More than 80% of popular teen TV shows contain sexual content.
One way of dealing with these issues would be to make students aware of how advertising is using sexuality to sell products and the groups that have been created to monitor those advertisements.
Those groups are: StopCommercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC),
Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME), American Academy of Child andAdolescent Psychiatry: The Television and Media Committee (AACAP), just to name a few (Korn, 2006), . Allowing students to watch and document how sexuality is used in advertisement allows each student to become more aware of how media influences his or her personal consumer habits What are the potential ethical issues in media targeted for adolescents,
and how can they be addressed in the classroom? Pschologists recognize that adolescents are influenced
by what they see, hear, read, and listen to. Advertisers, movie executives, musicians, writers, and TV producers exploit the easily impressionable minds of young men and women with blatant and subtle sexual references. Never in world history has sex and sexuality been more accessible and haphazardly presented. The 21st Century is rampant with media outlets that capitalize on the fragile young minds of adolescents in an effort to sell products, or garner ratings. They have little regard for the impact that these images have on young minds, nor the consequences that may result from the callous images they project. Teachers have a unique opportunity, if not a responsibility, to educate adolescents about sex and sexuality. The unrealistic portrayal of such an important subject by the media can warp young minds and have a devestating effect on healthy emotional
and social development. In the quest for the almighty dollar, mass media has no ethics and no conscience. Their wreckless disregard for the impact that their campaigns have on young minds is unlikely to change without legislation, and that fight has met stiff resistance. Teachers must be vigilant in presenting the reality of sex and sexuality because no one else is. These shocking staistics reveal the obvious ethical issue that mass media chooses to ignore.
The common sense issue that promoting sex without consequence sends a dangerous message to adolescent minds. Minds that are not yet cognitively developed are preyed upon by these profit-seeking entities who care not for the children themeselves, but for the disposable dollars in their pockets and purses. Those that use sex to sell clothing, cars, music, movies, magazines, and fragrances are not concerned that "each year more than 700,000 teenage girls have unplanned pregnancies", 72% of teens think watching TV with a lot of sexual content influences sexual behavior. Teens exposed to more sexual content in TV, movies, and music tend to have sex at younger ages and to engage in risky sex.
Out of 68% of TV shows that contain overt sexual content, only 15% discuss risk and responsibility. Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including TV, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet and advertising (Youth and Sex ). or that "youth aged 15 to 24 years old account for nearly 50% of all STD diagnoses each year", or even that "50% of all new HIV infections in the U.S. are among young people" (MediaWise , n.d.). The only thing, the one single determing factor that determines the content of their medium is simply this:
"Teenagers spend $155 billion per year on a wide variety of products" (MediaWise, n.d.).
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