Media's Positive & Negative Influence on Teenagers

Media is a vast form of communication that permeates nearly every aspect of modern culture. Teenagers are exposed to all sorts of media outlets, from television, movies and advertising to social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Media isn't inherently positive or negative; however, teens should have a healthy balance between exposure to media and other, intellectually and physically stimulating activities, says the Palo Alto Medical Foundation 2.

Image and Beauty Standards: Negative

It's no secret that media has had an increasingly negative impact on the way teenage girls measure their personal image and beauty standards. The sizes of supermodels and actresses often influence teenage girls -- who are actively seeking to find an identity -- to believe they have to be thin to exemplify beauty. Magazine advertisements encourage teenage girls to think their hair needs to be long or short, red, blond or brunette -- whatever the flavor of the month -- in order to be considered beautiful. In order to minimize the effect of these messages, Boise State University psychology professor, Mary Pritchard, writing for "The Huffington Post," praises parents who limit their teens' exposure to various media outlets. Teens should be taught to value their own definitions of beauty above all else.

Glorifying Negative Behaviors: Negative

Movies and television programs often show characters using drugs and alcohol and engaging in violent behaviors. At a developmental stage when teens seek greater freedom and independence, the glorification of drugs, alcohol, risky sexual and violent behaviors in the media make it challenging for teens to make responsible behavioral choices. Still, media cannot solely be blamed for teens' consumption of drugs and alcohol, or involvement in sexual activities; ultimately it's up to parents to teach their teens about the negative consequences associated with risky behaviors, and the false images often perpetuated in the media for financial gain. Palo Alto Medical Foundation suggests that teens learn to use their critical thinking skills -- and parents can help them in this area -- by distinguishing fantasy from reality, and analyzing the agendas and target audiences of various advertisements 2.

Cultural and Political Awareness: Positive

The Raising Children Network says that teens can benefit from media exposure by developing cultural and political awareness 1. Television, films, magazines and social media sites expose teens -- who may otherwise be limited to interactions with people from their own cultural and ethnic backgrounds -- to an array of different people. While family members and peers may perpetuate stereotypes of different cultural groups, media outlets can offer a diverse display of cultural or ethnic groups -- such as Asian, Latino and Black Americans -- that encourage teens to think critically and question cultural stereotypes. News outlets, such as CNN, Fox News and Al-Jazeera English, provide teens with an opportunity to develop a political stance. Exposure to news and information about events occurring around the world also allow teens to participate in charitable acts or consider other ways to engage in benevolent deeds.

Social Skills Development: Positive

Teens can learn to enhance social interactions with their peers through involvement in social media, says the Raising Children Network 1. Quite often, friendships on social media sites are merely offline extensions of existing, face-to-face relationships. Social media also allows teens to cultivate new friendships, which brings them access to wider networks and provides even greater learning and social opportunities. Other benefits for teens engaged in social media include increased social confidence, more social support and heightened media literacy. Social media diversifies teens' social skills, which will help them navigate through a technologically astute society.

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