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Effects of Media on Society
Almost every day of our lives we are exposed to the media in at least one form or another. Television shows, magazines, newspapers, radiobroadcasts, videogames, books, and the internet are all different outlets of media— produced and published images and ideas that are circulated and communicated around communities, nations, and the world. How often do we stop and reflect on how these images and ideas shape us or if they even affect us at all? An article by an aliased blogger, “Media and How It Affects Culture”, claims that we as a “mature and healthy culture” will not be affected by different notions displayed in the media—that the media is a reflection of society already (MJFANDE). In response to this claim, what the author fails to acknowledge is that the illustrations seen on television, in video games, and other media outlets are not reflections of society in the real world, but reflections of the human imagination designed to entertain, inform, and in some cases influence. The outrageous amounts of violence and vulgarity I have seen on television have not ever been condoned in a real world arena, yet these negative actions occur at an increased rate, proportionate to the availability of access to media. Is it completely fair to say that the increased amounts of violence in schools have no relation to the increased amounts of violence depicted in videogames and television? Also, is it rational to suggest that the thousands of anorexic women and even more women who deal with body image based depression have no connection to the fact that almost every successful female figure depicted on magazine covers and in movies are in pristine physical shape and often depicted in a sexualized context. It is clear that mass media has a hand in creating and popularizing toxic culture in these aspects and among others. In this piece I will use these examples to demonstrate how media has a direct and significant influence on individuals and society as a whole, and why it is important to address the threat it poses.
Children and The Media
The most susceptible members of society to the influence of media are children. The extraordinary availability of access to media in today’s day and age has created this fact increasingly more relevant. A research review published by the American Association of Pediatrics stated,” Youth spend an average of greater than 7 hours per day using media, and the vast majority of them have access to a bedroom television, computer, the Internet, a video-game console, and a cell phone.” The review goes on to say, ”According to social learning theory, children and adolescents learn by observing and imitating what they see on the screen, particularly when these behaviors seem realistic or are rewarded ” (Strasburger). Apparently, children are being bombarded with increasingly more media content as technology progresses, and this media content has a direct influence on the mental and physical progression. Therefore, media, such as video games and television, can promote violent characteristics in children. According to the AAP review, “Researchers believe that repeated exposure to mediated violence can lead to anxiety and fear, acceptance of violence as an appropriate means of solving conflict, and desensitization, with resulting increases in aggression and decreases in altruism” (Strasburger). This research underlines the fact that media has a direct effect on society that can result in significantly adverse effects, specifically the mental and physical harm of children. Clearly we are not the “mature society” that the author of “Media and How It Affects Culture” proclaims that we are or should be, simply because our society contains the immature minds of the youth. We cannot expect adolescents to have the same discernment of what is appropriate action as an adult. What kind of people can we expect children exposed to this type of content to grow up to be? I very much doubt that many will mature into the modern day Thomas Edisons, Martin Luther King Jr.s, and Dorothea Langes, the great and responsible adults we require to become a better society. Something has to be done to prevent the social and physical crippling of our children from becoming an increased problem in the future.
Women In The Media
Not only should we consider the wellbeing of future generations but also that of our perspective of the female. Women are also the potential victims of media’s influence over society. The portrayal of women as sexual figures in popular culture is also a threat to the well-being of our society. Frequently women are depicted or portrayed in some form of sexual representation. This portrayal has created a standard for the ideal female image that women are compared to by themselves or others. The American Psychological Association released a research report that claims that the sexualized images of women in media serve as “models of femininity” for females, especially young girls who are still developing their sense of self (Report). Young girls exposed to these models may face future problems in mental and sexual development. The APA report states, “Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women” (Report). Media implies the notion that one of the primary roles of females is as a sexual object no matter what field of life they play on. This idea is demeaning and impractical when observing the standard for the ideal woman that the media suggests. It is not surprising to find that women can feel inadequate when compared to it. This perspective that society holds for women will only become more diluted the longer nothing is done to counteract the influence of the media.
Time To Take Action
From news programs and television shows, to radiobroadcast and magazines, each form of media serves some purpose to entertain or inform, but these intentions have produced negative images that hold sway on the development of the minds of individuals and ultimately the development of society. Media creation of toxic culture, vulgar and negative conduct that is and should not be condoned in the real world, will only increase if we neglect to show interest in this matter. The wide promotion of the idea that media does not stand as the model for our culture is the type of action that needs to take place. The simple popularization of this concept is a small yet effective step in counteracting the influence of the media. For example, the Charlotte Observer recently released an article concerning a youth foundation doing just that. Jimmeka Anderson, human development major and founder of I AM not the MEdia, explains how her battle with her own physical identity led her realize she wanted to reach the many teens who struggle with the same issues (Reubens). Her workshops, reaching over 700 teens, focus on five categories including body image, sex and healthy relationships, teens and consumers, education versus entertainment, and teen violence and bullying. In the article, Anderson states “Most girls try to change themselves just to fit in … and this program teaches you it’s OK to be yourself, and it’s not healthy to change yourself.”
What You Can Do
Though they stand as good practices, the creation of a youth foundation or the enlistment of children in some sort of social education class are not the only means of counteracting the influence of media on society. What it does require is parents teaching children to discern what content they see or hear in the media is appropriate conduct, responsibility taken by media networks to better censor or choose different programming, and the general realization that the things we see on television, hear on the radio, and read in magazines serve the purpose of entertaining or informing. These are the actions of a mature society—a society that understands that the influence of the content of our media will result in horrible repercussions if allowed to continue as unchecked as it has been.
MJFANDE. "Media and How It Affects Culture." HubPages. HubPages, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
"Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls." Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. American Psychology Association, 2007. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
Reubens, Lindsay. "Backing Away from Media Influence." Charlotte Observer. N.p., n.d. Web. Mar. 2013.
Strasburger, Victor C., MD, Amy B. Jordan, PhD, and Ed Donnerstein, PhD. "Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents." Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents. N.p., 1 Mar. 2010. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.