Media's Positive & Negative Influence on Teenagers

With the rapid growth of social media, your teen is exposed to more than just television and print magazines 3. Online sites host video content, blogs, forums and networks. Mobile phone games and applications are sponsored by advertising. The wide reach of media has vast effects on your teen's behavior, outlook and ideas 1. This effect is so important that media psychology is now recognized as a sub-specialty in the field by the American Psychology Association. But the relentless presence of various media can have both positive and negative effects on teens.

Health Education

Both television and online media give teenagers access to beneficial health information ranging from acne and skin care to depression and sexually transmitted diseases 3. Educational programs by the media help inform teenagers and dispel myths about health risks 3. Confidential online forums by reputable health organizations such as give teens a platform to ask questions without embarrassment. Teens with chronic health conditions like allergic skin conditions, asthma and diabetes are also able to join networks that offer support and tips for the best ways to cope. However, as a parent, it is still important for you to initiate conversations with your teen about health matters in order to help her navigate the endless amount of information online and in the media.

Social Media

Although you are right to limit the time your teen spends on social media, there are a number of positive benefits of these sites, notes a 2011 study published in the medical journal "Pediatrics." Teenagers use social media to stay connected to friends and family members, meet new friends, share common interests and promote causes they believe in 3. This type of media can also help teens expand their creativity and ideas by sharing artistic and musical projects and creating written content and podcasts.


However, some types of media exposure may be affecting your teen's behaviors, warns an article published in "Psychology Today." Her attention span may decrease due to excessively stimulating and fast-paced media 1. This can potentially cause problems with school work and completing tasks at home or on the job. This is also thought to trigger or worsen attention deficit disorder in some cases. Violence in movies, television and video games may desensitize teens to violence and lead to aggressive behavior.

Body Image

Advertising pays for almost all forms of media, including magazines, movies, websites and even phone applications. Many of these advertisements and portrayals of women on film and television can lead to negative body images, insecurity and low-self esteem among teenagers. Your teen may feel that she has to fit the body type and definition of beauty that she sees. As almost all of these images are altered in some way, this can lead to emotional issues and depression. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can be influenced by how much media your teen is exposed to, notes

Privacy and Bullying

Social media and interactive sites move fast, with "friends" and contacts posting photos of themselves in often provocative poses and outfits 3. Teens are often caught up in this trend and might feel pressured to post comments or pictures of themselves to compete or feel good about themselves. This includes highly sexual images, statuses about risky behavior and comments that may be crude and offensive. Susceptible teenagers may not realize the loss of privacy and their reputation until it is too late. Images of teens can easily be stolen and posted elsewhere. Teens that don't fit the mold or follow trends may be bullied online by others. Cyberbullying is now the most common type of bullying and involves taunts and threat via social media, email, texting and forums 3. Cyberbullying can sometimes lead to mental health problems, self-harm and suicide, notes CommonSenseMedia 5.

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