The Media and The Youth: How The Media Affect Children and Adolescents
Have you ever compared your own childhood with the childhood of kids nowadays? What do you feel when looking at your children, little siblings or any young person in your family spending a whole day stuck in front of a computer or laying on a sofa watching television? Have you ever thought about the impact that the overexposure to the media produces over the youth? The truth is that, nowadays, the media influence the way we think and the way we act in a dramatic way. Therefore, we are gradually losing the balance between being informed and connected with the world, and becoming completely dependent or controlled by the Internet and the television programs. Under these circumstances, who are the most vulnerable to the media’s invasion? The answer is evident. It is clearly noticeable that the media produce several negative effects among children and adolescents. Being naive and immature individuals, they are the ones who mostly absorb their influence. Virtually all areas of their life are being negatively affected by the constant and free exposure to the media.
Firstly, new patterns of behaviour are being developed as a consequence of the uncontrolled access to inadequate information. Secondly, unfavourable habits and learning difficulties are produced as a result of the Internet and the television’s overuse. Lastly, materialist attitudes are continually promoted through advertisements and commercials that particularly affect young people’s thoughts. To start with, the media provide children and adolescents with plenty of information which is unsuitable for their age, level of emotional maturity and stage of cognitive development. In fact, the amount of violence, inappropriate or strong language and sexual scenes is abundant in films, programs, web pages and even in news. As a result of this, children and adolescents´ thoughts and behavior are seriously affected. Considering the fact that young people tend to internalize and imitate what they observe, we can state that the exposure to this type of information is alarming. Children tend to be especially influenced by violent scenes. Most of them spend a considerable amount of time watching films or even cartoons that are packed with scenes in which characters fight among themselves and kill each other, in which the heroes make use of different types of weapons to defeat their enemies and in which the most powerful people are the most aggressive ones. Consequently, children tend to adopt these patterns of behavior and become fairly belligerent.
In fact, it was empirically demonstrated that the more violence children are exposed to, the more aggressive they tend to become. As regards adolescents, they tend to be especially affected by sexual scenes shown through the media. Nowadays, sex and pornography are elements which are present in almost any audiovisual medium at any moment during the day. To make matters worse, some sexual behaviors are shown as completely natural and risk-free, which encourages young people to the early initiation of their sexual life. Numerous studies rectify adolescents’ susceptibility to the media’s influence on their sexual attitudes nowadays. Not only is young people´s behaviour influenced by the media, but their own lifestyle and learning habits tend to be negatively affected. For instance, the overuse of either the computer or the television contributes to the development of a sedentary life. Both, children and adolescents tend to spend an excessive amount of hours watching TV or surfing on the Internet. This leads to the development of obesity and other health problems, such as failing sight and hitches in relation to the postural development. In the same way, the excessive use of these instruments of communication causes a number of negative effects upon children and adolescents´ intellectual growth and study habits.
The Media, although considered as an important tool for educational matters, paradoxically produce several problems for the development of the learning process. It occurs due to the fact that the time spent watching TV or exploring the Internet takes time away from reading and schoolwork. A number of researches demonstrated that one or two hours of daily unsupervised television viewing by school-aged children has a significant counterproductive effect on academic performance, especially in relation to reading skills. Finally, the wide range of advertisements and commercials of different kind that are present at any given moment in any audiovisual medium unconsciously generate profound effects on people’s mind, being children and adolescents particularly susceptible to this phenomenon. Nowadays, advertisements are especially directed to the youngest members of society since they are easily influenced due to their limited analytical capacities and critical thinking abilities. Thus, children and adolescents represent the most relevant source of consumption and grow up with the notion of spending incorporated in their minds.
This situation makes young people adopt a materialist attitude that grows in the extent that the exposure to advertisements grows, satisfying the sellers’ aim of creating false needs and increasing the desire towards getting new things. As a consequence of this materialism, these young people are vulnerable to become hedonist adults in the future, adults who base their notion of happiness and life on pleasure and comfort, consequently spending money in purchasing new possessions and consumer goods which constantly offered by the media. As a conclusion, we can say that the boom in the media’s popularity and their presence in any area of life, although beneficial in certain aspects, generate numerous unfavourable effects among people in general and among young individuals in particular. In fact, all dimensions of virtually every child and every adolescent are affected due to the media. The way they act as well as the way they think, the way they learn as well as the way they understand life, and even their own health are influenced by the constant exposure to the different mediums of communication. This situation is by far disturbing and, what is more, it is dramatically increasing each year.