It is widely held view that art imitates life. However, there exists an actual sense in which art is imitated by life. The power and presence of the media ensures that what is seen, heard and experienced in and through the media influence the behaviour of teenagers whether they are conscious of it or not. It is clear that media is the one thing that is almost inseparable from the lives most teenagers. Teenagers are naturally curious. Faced with a multitude of choices and challenges, they often look for direction and guidance on how they can live their lives in today's society (Fox, 1999). As such, they are particularly susceptible to the media messages of behaviour as acceptable, unacceptable, or normal. Since large parts of these messages are engrafted in pictures and stories, the power of the media in guiding the behaviour of teenagers has increased.
While the media has the capacity to teach behaviours that reflect positive social values, the majority of the research on the influence of media on teens has focused on the cause and effect relationship between the portrayal of immoral or dangerous conduct on the media and the resulting negative teen behaviour. Media is a very powerful tool, which can lead teenagers on their journey through life. This has invariably created tension between parents who have positive expectations for their teenagers and teenagers who view such expectation as hopelessly out-dated. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the influence of media on teenagers, especially how the media shapes the behaviour of teens.
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The literature on the influence of media on teenagers is vast and most of them have focused on the negative impacts. They seem to advance the view that the way youth react to situations, or their mode of thinking is wholly based on the effect of the media, particularly television and movies, music, videogames, and the internet. Youth in sense represents the age group between 13 and 20. The outcome of media influences has largely been negative, especially since the above forms of media have negatively influenced the behaviours and sexuality of the teenagers (Stern and Handel, 2001).
Media Influence on Youth Behaviour
Media has taken center stage in influencing the behaviour of teenagers. Most teenagers spend hours on the end watching television, playing video games and socializing on the internet on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Music is also a major contributor to the effects that media has on teenagers. This is because, currently, it is very easy for teenagers to watch and download music videos as well as mp3 music from the internet, which is affecting their behaviour negatively (Stern and Handel, 2001).
The first negative effect that has been noted in teenagers is an increase in violence and aggression. This is a direct effect of what they see in movies, television, music and video games. Recent studies have revealed that almost a large percentage of movies and television programs that are in current production have a large percentage of scripts that are inclined towards violence (Linz et al., 2003). The film production industry is opportunistic and producers and directors understand the importance of making movies that are riddled with scenes of violence, and teenagers imitate what they see on the television, unaware of the effects of acting violently. The rating system used for television programs does not do much in regulating viewership and in fact lack any serious form of content control. Teenagers have access to such programs and movies regardless of whether meant for adult viewership or not. Poyntz (2006) reports that most violent movies are rated PG-13. PG-13 implies that a program or movie is unsuitable for viewers under the age of 13 but a close view of the movies suggest that they are only suitable for adults.
Parents are easily duped into believing that there is no harm in allowing their children to watch such television shows and movies; producers argue that their movies cannot influence human behaviour.---- Such reasoning misleads consumers, since teenage minds are susceptible to what they watch on television. A number of incidents have been noted where a teenage student carried a handgun into school and used it on his fellow students. The media and the kinds of images that children are exposed to on the internet, action movies on television and video games heavily influence many of such incidents (Poyntz, 2006).
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Music is also considered a negative influence on young people and has a large impact on their emotions. Certain types of music for example hip-hop music, glorifies advocates for violence. Many artists need to capture or appeal to a certain target audience and thus they rap about killing, guns, violence and debasing women. The number of teenagers who listen to such music is on the rise. The lyrics of the songs in this genre have contributed to the violent nature of the teenagers. The music videos produced by the artists also contain very violent scenes. In hip-hop for example artists are branded are "cool" and likable if they show guns and violence in their videos. Teenagers in an effort to become "cool" too are copying and aping what these artists are doing on television. This has affected and influenced teenage behaviour negatively.
The types of video games being played are also violent. Studies indicate that violent media can lead to view violence as a legitimate conflict-solving strategy. Games have evolved to allow people to kill characters in the video game. The problem with video games such as "Call of Duty" is that they are designed in such a way that the user becomes so much engaged I the game as to feel that the setting is actually real. This has led to an increase in violence among video game players. It is estimated that almost a large percentage of games currently in production are violence-oriented games. Due to the improving of graphics game makers have been able to create games as real as possible, even being able to show blood. Such games that are influencing teenage behaviour include Hit Man and Grand Theft Auto. In his description of the game Grand Theft Auto, Kirsh (2006) states that it has been produced such that it allows a game player to participate in crimes that are violent in nature ranging from drive-byes and shoot outs. The internet is also instrumental impacting violent behaviour of teenagers since it offers a platform to download such violent movies, video games and music. Some games are actually played online and people are able to create virtual fantasy worlds for themselves. The problem with the internet is that it lacks any form of control and teenagers have access to all kinds of information. The internet has gone a step further and is available on mobile phones and thus parental control on internet usage is a bare minimum (Eisend and Möller, 2007).
Various forms of media are also responsible for showing sex and nudity. Access to such explicit content by teenagers especially through images aired on television and various pornographic sites on the internet have very serious effects. It is common routine to see pictures and images of naked women on music videos and websites, which are easily accessible to teenagers. This may lead to undesirable and unsafe sexual practices resulting in early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (Kunkel, Cope and Biely, 1999). When the media provides depicters of sex without consequences or boundaries, teenagers are prone to initiate sexual activity earlier, more often and in a variety of ways. It is important to protect teenagers from such situations that may negatively affect their lives as well as their studies (Eisend and Möller 2007). It is imperative to protect their young lives to safeguard their future.
The media can be directly linked as having effects on the fashion trends of the teenagers because around us teenagers are trying to look like the celebrities or the rich and famous as they are represented in the media. The media has created certain cliques in which the teenagers find themselves trying to fit in. Most teenagers look upon their role models using their reference of the media as their main source of how they determine their fashion trends. Hollywood fashion glamour swept many people, as they wanted to resemble this faces that were being presented to be stylish. The facts the media are cliché in this current society then it provides the basis of what the teenagers consider trendy. The media also provides false imagery to the teenagers that they try to copy to fit in this changing society. Average teenager will communicate to their friends how they saw the models on television and magazines. --
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Many of the big names in the fashion industry like Gucci, Prada and the Gap among thousands of others are among those fighting in the thriving business (Escobar-Chaves and Anderson, 2008). Then in essence, we would expect these fashion warehouses to do anything in their power to get their products moving, and this is where the media effect comes. In search for a voice that reaches out to the world, then no doubt that the media is the most preferable choice as close to all the nations of the would have established their own networks to keep up with this faster moving transudation into the technological era. Thus in the move to captivate the young generation to flow with trendy fashion names, these big industries pay a lot of money to get enough airtime so that their products are slowly absorbed in the market thus causing a teenage transformation towards dressing modes. The media are thus no doubt a link to the negative effects of fashion.
These assumed truths by the media is that if one is not wearing the coolest or the newest clothes then he or she does not look appealing as common in high schools. Teenagers are more concerned with their outward look and physical appearance; they worship beauty instead of their own true character. More profound in the media is the fashion and weight issue that has been booming for the last years. It is believed by most teenagers that being healthy is having moderate weight is against the norm. Most teenagers, especially girls, are highly demoralized by the fact that they do not look like the models they see in the industry. The media put out this negative image because it highlights slim and fit models. This had resulted in most teenage girls some queer feeding habits that led to devastating results (Eisend and Möller, 2007). Thus, it will be noble to state that media has a great effect on self-image of many teenagers and that it is ongoing worrying trend.
In conclusion, it is very clear that whatever is presented in the media is highly influential in the life of any normal teenager. This great pull of media is very worrying because it seems that even with the continuing development of technology it is not bound to end soon. In any case, the people regulating the use of media should come up with strict laws that are likely to regulate the airing of some information on the media so that the problem that the teenagers have to go through is done with finally. Teenagers did not bring up this menace on themselves and so, even though it does not seem to end, in the near future strict, measures should be employed. There is a need to have a semblance of control of the kind of information that is accessible to teenagers. The types of media most used are the internet, television, mobile phones or the music media