Mass media is affecting the youth

Erica - Tequesta, Florida
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

According to a study by Kaiser Family Foundation, “kids and teens eight to eighteen years old spend nearly four hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost two additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.” This afternoon, I watched a mere thirty minutes of television and from the time I turned on the television to the time I had turned it off, I had seen three different shows which all had displayed sorts of inappropriate content. The shows included “A Real Chance at Love,” “Charm School,” and “The Pick-up Artist.” All three shows reflect the new popular theme of reality television, which exploits sex, violence, and substance abuse constantly. The content of these shows were not appropriate for adolescents by any means. These shows are only few of which are shown on an hourly basis on networks such as MTV, BET, VH1 and Comedy Central. The explicit material, which is exposed all over today’s entire mass media, is greatly impacting our youth and leading to our society’s deterioration.

A major issue that the mass media continuously feeds into is the idea of promiscuity and influence of sex. Adolescents who have high levels of exposure to television programs that contain sexual content are twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy over the following three years as their peers who watch fewer such shows. According to Rick Nauert, PH.D. , “The amount of sexual content on television has doubled in recent years and there is little representation of safer sex practices in those portrayals.” The lack of sex prevention by the television has influenced teen pregnancies and promoted promiscuity. The most innovative and easiest access of media is through today’s music, which exposes just as much inappropriate sexual content as today’s television shows. Regardless of the music genre, all of today’s modern music generally includes inappropriate sexual lyrics or references to promiscuity. MSNBC broadcasted an internet article which states, “Songs depicting men as “sex-driven studs,” women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior.” Teens who are exposed to such lyrical content are more likely to use the music as sexual references and often aspire to achieve such actions as the performing artists. According to the same MSNBC internet article, “Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music,” which supports this theory. Music has always been an influential aspect of American culture and unfortunately most music, which is impacting our nation’s youth, depicts the degrading, demoralizing notion of sex. Although as Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher states, “It’s a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing. You have to look at everything that’s going on in a young person’s life,” it is still proven that the teens and youth who are more exposed to such sexual content in media choose more risky sexual paths than the teens who are not exposed. David Walsh, a psychologist quotes, “The brain’s impulse-control center undergoes “major construction” during the teen years at the same time that an interest in sex starts to blossom, add sexually arousing lyrics and it’s not that surprising that a kid with a heavier diet of that would be at greater risk for sexual behavior,” which continuously proves the point that such mass media as music and television heavily increase youth’s decision to become sexually active sooner.

According to a study conducted by Candice Odgers, an assistant professor in psychology and social behavior at the University of California-Irvine, “Fifty percent of kids under the age of 15 are actually using substances.” Many would agree that fifteen years old, which is the age of a freshman in high school, is incredibly too young to be drinking alcohol and using drugs. The fact that half of kids around the world under the age of fifteen are using some sort of substances is shocking and shameful. The media has glamorized and encouraged the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco smoking. The uses of substances are practically in every movie or television show, making it seem normal and common to young audiences. According to a study conducted by the Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “one in three lyrics of hundreds of popular songs have words referring to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The songs were chosen from genres like country, pop, R&B, rap and rock. The researchers analyzed their lyrics and discovered that 33 percent contained explicit references and 42 percent had some kind of substances abuse reference. Two-thirds of these references placed drugs, alcohol and tobacco in a positive light by associating them with sex, partying and humor.” Rap music contains the most explicit references to drugs and alcohol. For example, a rap song by Young Bloodz contains the lyrics, “I smoke, I drank, I’m supposed to stop but I can’t.” Children and teens of any age can hear inappropriate lyrics such as these, which is just wrong. Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia found that “68 percent of films show actors smoking, 32 percent depict alcohol use, 8 percent show marijuana use, and 7 percent include scenes of non-injecting drug use.” Based on these statistics, it proves the amount of abuse that occurs in society and thus, there should be stricter regulations and oversight regarding what is appropriate material and what age it is suitable for on television, in movies, and music. The current system is too lenient in what is allowed to be shown in films, television and music. There should not be alcohol and tobacco use in PG-13 movies when the legal age to drink is twenty-one and to buy cigarettes in eighteen. Furthermore, since drug use is illegal, there should be no reference to the use of it at all. Take the recent popular film among teens “Pineapple Express” for example, which is rated R. The movie was all about smoking marijuana. Seventeen years old is the legal age to get into an R rated movie without parent supervision and the fact that seventeen year olds and possibly younger teens have the ability to see a movie that makes marijuana look fun and practically encourages it is messed up. It seems as if this world is just becoming more and more corrupt.

During adolescence young people are concerned with their appearance and being accepted. Children and teens are being brought up in a world where many things contribute to have an immense impact on them. The problem is that, to adolescents, negative impacts such as sex, substance abuse, and violence are what make an individual seem “cool.” Adolescents believe that the media reflects how life is in the real world in which it is most definitely not. By looking at various harmful aspects of the media that influence adolescents’ lifestyles, it is clear parents are the ones who need to step up and educate their children and control this problem. An appropriate solution to this issue would be to create stronger restrictions and regulations on the media including, placing stronger parental controls on computers and televisions. Following such a solution will prevent deterioration of our youth and protect the lives of our nations future children.