By Sonia Davis
Let’s admit it; media is taking over our lives. That’s why it is not particularly surprising that media nowadays has a massive influence our teenagers and adolescents. Whether it is computers, TV, social media platforms, or video games — media profoundly impacts all facets of our teenager’s life.
Admittedly, not all is gloom and doom with the influence of media on our teens. If used correctly, media can do wonders for our youngsters’ socialization, learning, and even networking. This article is dedicated to highlighting the several different ways (both negative and positive) media influences our budding teenagers.
(1) Helps Them Cultivate Social Skills
We all know that most teens are often socially awkward. They are at that stage where everything is a little exciting yet confusing. Media — particularly social media — gives teens the right tools and avenue to groom and nurture their social skills. Besides, these sites are a haven for developing new friends, allowing them to broaden their social circles.
And that isn’t all – media influence on teens can help them hone life social skills such as social confidence, improved self-esteem, and heightened social literacy as well as get more social support. Overall, it helps the teens diversify their social skills, which, in turn, help them navigate through the ever-changing society without much hassle.
(2) Help Build Awareness
The thing is that most children at this age live somewhat sheltered lives. But when exposed to different media outlets, they can develop awareness about the world and society as a whole. Social, political, and cultural awareness is paramount for teen’s personal growth. It helps them become socially conscious citizens. They can also learn more about issues that affect them like rape, bullying, etc.
(3) Source of Inspiration
Teens may be vulnerable to peer pressure, but they also look up to celebs, TV personalities, and other mass media idols. When they watch these people do lovely things, they too get inspired. Who knows – your teen boy might take up a martial arts class thanks to a Jackie Chan flick. All teens need to draw inspiration from media is a little guidance from their parents.
(4) Improved Motor Skills
While playing too much video games can have adverse effects, a good dose can help your teen develop and fine-tune his motor skills.
(1) Negative Body Image Issues
Our media is filled with people with the so-called “beach-ready bods.” The problem is that teens will start thinking that they need to have perfect body, skin, and hair to be “normal” looking. That’s a far-fetched influence since most videos and images they see on TV, online and in films are often photoshopped and distorted. The overall effect is that teens will have a distorted body image.
The trouble is that such a negative influence can lead to body image crisis issues such as bulimia and anorexia. Even teen boys may feel “less” of a man because they don’t have a chiseled body and a six-pack.
(2) Violent Behaviors
The degree of violence in today’s TV shows and films is a bit scary. And when teens spend countless hours watching this “gore” media, they’ll end up thinking violence is socially OK. For them, violence becomes a reality. Soon they’ll have violence issues at school. Just look at the number of mass shootings at our schools to get the picture of how media have negatively impacted our teens.
(3) Risque Sexual Behaviors
At this stage, teens are just discovering their sexuality. The problem is that today’s media is teeming with sexual nuances, not to mention how easy it is for them to access pornography. All these pressures are not suitable for them as they are quite interested in everything sex. To add insult to injury, teens also get lots of pressure from their peers. That’s why it is easy for them to engage in irresponsible sexual behavior that might lead to teenage pregnancies.
(4) Weight Issues
Nearly 75% of American teenagers are currently active on social media, with 68% of them using Facebook as their primary networking tool. That’s not the problem. Much to the chagrin of most parents, today’s teens spend oodles of hours not only on social media but also watching TV or movies. As if that isn’t worse enough, most teenage boys are known to spend countless hours binge-playing video games.
Needless to say, they don’t have to time to break a little sweat. That is why it comes as no big surprise that nearly two-thirds of American teens are either obese or overweight. That’s unacceptable.
(5) Low and Dropping School Grades
Again, teens these days watch too much television and spend unacceptable hours on their smartphones and computers. According to a recent study, teenagers who spend more than four hours watching TV, are more likely to have lower test scores. But there’s some good news. Another study seems to suggest that different media influence school work in different ways.
While media certainly plays a key role in widening social connections and learning a raft of life skills, its inherent risks cannot simply be neglected. The susceptibility of teens to pressure and self-regulatory nature of [social] media can put teens at risk to evils like sexting, obesity, cyberbullying, social media depression, problems with school work, and so forth. It is our duty as parents to ensure that media positively impact our teens.