Original article on momjunction.com | 5 September 2016 | by Chhandita Chakravarty
It is fashionable to blame the media for everything that ails society today. But is media really so evil?
Media today has a huge influence on teenagers. Be it television, computers, video games, social networking sites – it hugely impacts all aspects of a teen’s life. But all is not bad with the media. If used right, media can change lives for good. This post highlights both positive and negative media influence on teens.
Positive Media Influence On Teens:
Before you decide to pull the plug, check out how does the media influence on teenagers – in a good way!
1. Help Develop Awareness:
Most teens live a sheltered life. But with exposure to various media outlets, they can develop awareness about society and the world. This cultural and political awareness is vital if we want to groom a generation of socially responsible citizens. With news channels, magazines, social networking sites blaring about world happenings, teens can realize that there is more to the world than just what is happening in the ‘hood.
2. Help Develop Social Skills:
Many teens are socially awkward. Media gives them the chance to groom their social skills. It also gives them the chance to expand their social circle and develop new friendships. Other benefits include social confidence, heightened literacy in the media, and more social support. Social media diversifies your teen’s social skills, which in turn helps him navigate successfully through modern society.
3. Inspire Them:
When your teen watches an action flick, don’t just despair about the violence. With a little guidance, they can use the movie as inspiration! Maybe your teen will decide to take up martial arts training, all thanks to a Bruce Lee movie! Teenagers look up to celebrities, and when a celebrity tells them to stay off drugs, they just might listen.
4. Help Fine Tune Motor Skills:
Video games draw a lot of flak these days. But there’s some good in video games too! There are a few video games that can help teens develop and fine-tune their motor skills and coordination.
5. Help Develop Reading And Writing Skills:
When a celebrity talks of her favorite book, your teenager might be tempted to grab a book too. Not just that, if your teenager wants to be a part of blogs, chat rooms, etc., she’ll need to improve her reading and writing skills.
But these benefits cannot sugar-coat the negatives that come with media. There is some truth in what people say today.
Negative Media Influence On Teenagers:
We seem to be drowning in information. But for teenagers, this information overload can be the cause for serious concern. Check out here the negative social media influence on teenagers:
1. Distorted Body Image:
The world is full of perfect people today. With perfect skin, body, and hair – that’s what it appears like to the young today. Thanks to Photoshop, the standard of beauty has become impossible to achieve. And these images are everywhere. This has led to distorted body image among a number of teenagers. Anorexia and bulimia are a fall out of this body image crisis. And this is not limited just to the girls. Even boys are made to feel ‘less’ manly unless they fit the image popularized by media.
2. Making Violence Normal:
The amount of violence in video games and movies today is scary. And teenagers spend several hours every day watching these scenes of gore. Violence becomes their reality. Many teenagers are unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. This makes violence ‘normal’ for them. The number of school shootings in USA is an indication of this very fact.
3. Risky Sexual Behavior:
Teenagers are just discovering their sexuality. It is very normal for them to be interested in everything sexual. But the amount of sex in media today can make a teenager confused. Sex without responsibility – that seems to be the message being beamed at teenagers. This can lead to irresponsible sexual behavior and unwanted pregnancies.
4. Making Everything Commercial:
Happiness comes at a price. At least that’s the message teenagers get through media. Their life would be perfect if only you’d buy them that hot new game, that happening dress. Advertisers target teenagers to ramp up their revenues. But teenagers fall prey to the idea of commercialization of happiness.
Chances are your teen today spends most of her time in front of the TV or computer. Playing outside has become a rarity. Add to that bad eating habits, and you have an obesity epidemic at hand.
6. Score Low In School:
Teens who watch too much television have lower scores in exams. Also, such teens are not good readers as they spend more time in front of the television. A study reveals that individuals with high degree scores watch less television in their childhood and teenage. Another study reveals that different media affects school work differently. Third-grade scorers with computers in their bedrooms did better than those without computers. Third-grade scorers with televisions in their bedrooms did worse on their academics than those without TV in their bedrooms.
The media today is powerful and omnipresent. You just can’t escape its tentacles. And you don’t need to! Remember, media is just a tool and like any other tool, how you use it depends on you.
How To Handle Media Influences On Youth?
Exposure to media is a part of modern life, but you can help your child identify what is worth spending time and what isn’t. Here are some ways to handle the influence of social media on teenagers
Check out the music, movies, TV shows, games and celebrities your child likes. Once you know what is interesting to him, you can spot the pictures and messages that are influencing him.
It is quite easy for your teen to watch YouTube videos on mobiles so that you may not know what he is watching. Try monitoring your child on what he is watching on TV or the internet and try to negotiate some limits and rules.
One of the best ways to help your teen navigate the influences on media is to talk about messages. For instance, if your teen loves girls, you can talk to him about female friendships, life choices, self-esteem and sexuality. Monitoring your teen’s choices does not mean you ban him from watching media. It is just making him aware of the negative influences. It is a good idea to limit on how much your teen plays video games or watches TV.
You should also choose to ban some apps, shows and games. Explain why you are doing so.
You can also encourage your teen to interpret media by putting forward some questions he can ask. Pick out a TV ad or a magazine and ask your teen: who’s behind it, what is their motivation, how does it make him feel, what does he need from it, and so on. You can do the same with your teen’s role model. Encourage your teen to ask himself like why does he like that celebrity, does he follow him in real life, what values of the celebrity interest your teen and so on.
Tips For Parents:
You as a parent have the responsibility to help your teen make the right choices. Here are a few tips to make media a positive influence in your teen’s life:
Sit down as a family and discuss the pros and cons of media. Encourage your teen to express her feelings about various programs and media outlets. Help your teen differentiate between reality and fantasy.
Try to keep TVs, video games, etc. out of your teen’s bedroom.
Use parental control. Block channels and websites you think are inappropriate for your teen. But make sure to tell your teenager why exactly you have blocked these media outlets. Limit TV viewing to 2-3 hours every day. Try to spend time together as a family doing other activities. These are just few tips on the influence of media on teenagers that can help your family. Each family is different. So you need to take a call on media discipline that works for your family. But don’t make media a scapegoat. Media will exist, whether we like it or not. What we can do as parents is take the good it has to offer while avoiding the ugly.
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