There have been numerous studies on mass media and teenagers. While many people assume that mass media has a bad effect on teens, mass media can be a power harnessed to promote positive messages to teens as well.
Mass Media and Teenagers Today
There are numerous commercials, magazines and television shows geared specifically towards the teenage population. According to a recent study, teenagers spend the most money on music out of any specific demographic. That same study reported that out of more than 800 teenagers interviewed, all had television sets and 200 of those teens had more than four television sets in the home. It seems that the media is everywhere and it is targeting teens.
Negative Effects of Mass Media
There is no doubt that mass media can play a part in identifiable risky behaviors such as underage drinking, drugs, or sexual activity. A study done by the AAP identifies the amount of time spent using mass media, as a significant factor in risky behaviors. It should be noted that it's not necessarily the type of mass media, but rather the amount of time spent using it.
Risky Behaviors Being Suggested?
The temptation is to think that media is suggesting risky behavior like sex, drugs and alcohol to teenagers. While there is certainly music with suggestive lyrics or television with risqué images, the research indicates that perhaps the issue really has more to do with how teenagers are spending their time, or rather who they are not spending it with. While parents may think that their role in their teen's life is diminutive compared to other factors, the truth is that parents are still very influential in the lives of their teen.
One study suggests that even into college, parents can have an influence on a teen's engagement in risky behaviors. Perhaps it's not that teens who spend time using more media engage in risky behaviors more frequently, but rather that teens who spend a significant amount of time using mass media, spend less time with those that would influence them the most positively.
Can Mass Media Be Positive?
However, some people are starting to harness mass media to promote positive messages to teens. Since teens are steeped in a media culture, it makes sense to use that venue as a means to promote information and education about a variety of things that affect teenagers such as eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, drug use or even suicide.
The More You Know
While not all of "The More You Know" messages are geared towards teens, many of these short 90 minute commercials give messages that educate and inform teenagers of the potential consequences of certain behaviors. The More You Know has dealt with smoking, drugs, driving, suicide and even safe sex.
Dove's Real Beauty Campaign
Dove is a great example of a company that has taken seriously their responsibility to use their advertising for a greater good. Dove's Real Beauty Campaign takes aim at self-esteem and even has been choosing real women and girls in their campaigns rather than super thin models. Not only that but they've taken a multi-media approach using an interactive website and in-person education to encourage girls in particular, to feel good about their bodies.
It's impossible to separate your teens' life from media. However, parents can take the lead in limiting usage by spending more time with their teens and consistently discussing issues that are affecting mass media and teenagers.