Negative Effects of TV on Teenagers

Teen girl watching flat screen tv

In recent years, both concerned parents and teens themselves have wondered about the TV effect on teenagers. Some children find themselves being raised by a television and there are many studies analyzing how this can affect an adolescent when growing up. Kidhealth.org speculates that kids and teens watch nearly four hours of TV a day. One of the biggest resulting problems is the presence of negative influences from television programs.

TV Effect on Teenagers and Youth

When children are very young, the television already begins to have an influence on their life. Modern generations have grown up on shows like Sesame Street, Barney and Teletubbies. While many of these shows are educational and beneficial to development, when children grow up to be teenagers, and step out of the educational television arena, that is when TV potentially becomes a negative influence.

The negative influences of television can be found on many programs. Turn on the television and flip through the channels and there is a good chance that you may come across some of the following situations:

  • Violence, crime or fighting scenes
  • Explicit sex scenes or conversations about the topic
  • Alcohol, cigarette or drug use
  • People making bad decisions such as dating someone dangerous
  • Cursing or other verbal obscenities
  • Descriptions of stereotypical characters such as the girl who sleeps around with everyone or the bad boy
  • Unhealthy reflections of teen health and beauty

Each of these situations can affect teenagers differently. One 2016 study found across more than 300 episodes of seventeen shows rated Y7 to MA, each contained at least one risk behavior like violence, smoking, alcohol, and sex. In shows made for teens and rated TV14 over 50 percent contained violence and sex while almost 75 percent featured alcohol.

Sex on TV

A 2008 study analyzed the link between teenage parenthood and found that teens who watched sexually explicit television (from simple shows that just talk about a character having sex to shows with soft sex scenes) were twice as likely as other teens, who had not watched much of these shows, to have a baby by age 16. The study's conclusion prompted that teens see sexually explicit content and assume that everyone is doing it so there are not any significant consequences to sex. This study was one of the first to establish the link between teenagers, sex on TV and life implications.

More current research suggests studies like the one from 2008 don't provide a view of the whole picture. Now researchers don't believe watching sexy television shows has much of an impact on teen sexual experiences at all. They suggest kids and teens are better able to separate real life from fictional TV shows than previously thought.

Drinking, TV and Teens

Many television shows portray drinking. While there are programs that show legal aged adults drinking, there are also many, such as 90210 or Gossip Girl, that show teens engaging in underage drinking. These shows often portray that drinking is the 'cool' thing to do. As a result, teens looking to fit in often turn to drinking. Studies also suggest younger teens are more likely to consume alcohol after watching drinking commercials and the more of one alcohol brand teens see, the more likely they are to drink that brand.

Television Violence Impact on Teenagers

Teen friends watching TV together

One of the largest impacts of TV effect on teenagers is violence. In 2015, PG-13 movies, which are frequently shown on television after theatrical release, featured over 2.5 instances of gun violence per hour without showing extensive scenes depicting the real consequences of these actions, giving teens altered views of reality.

When someone sees a lot of violence on television or in video games, it can desensitize someone to real life violence. It can cause people to see violence as something that only happens on television and feel almost immune to it happening to them. The integration of violence into most shows can even result in teens thinking violence is appropriate in many situations.

What Can Be Done?

Many parents and teens may be discouraged when reading about the effect that TV can have on teenagers. It may seem impossible to change the situation. However, there are a few things teens can do to make sure TV doesn't have a hold over them:

  • Talk to your parents. If you see a scene that upsets or embarrasses you, talk to your parents about why the scene made you feel that way.
  • Remind yourself that it's just TV. Drinking a beer won't make you a princess, not everyone is having sex every single day, and no one is punching his/her way through solutions. Don't fall into TV's traps.
  • Refrain. Turn off the television a little bit more each week and experience the real world, not the world inside the tube.

Put Screens in Their Place

Each teen is a unique individual and will be impacted by television shows and advertisements differently. Make smart choices about what you watch and how much time you spend watching to become part of the solution in limiting these negative impacts.

Negative Effects of TV on Teenagers