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Mass Media And Adolescence: How Mass Media Influence Teens In Their Sexual Behavior

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Mass media plays a paramount role in today’s society, as it showers over increasing numbers of people all around the world. Used to communicate news and events on a daily basis, mass media is defined as those media that are designed to be consumed by large audiences through the agencies of technology. Mass media caters to a diverse audience, ranging from children, to adolescents, to adults. Amongst said audiences, “Adolescents are vigorous users of the information broadcasted in media” (Werner-Wilson, Morrissey & Fitzharris, 2004).

G Stanley Hall, a renowned American psychologist believed that the stages of adolescence reflected a stage in the human evolutionary past when there was a great deal of upheaval and disorder- with the result that adolescents experience a great deal of “storm and stress” as a standard part of their development. According to Hall the time of storm and stress is reflected through 2 types of difficulties: conflict with parents, and risk behaviors. Conflict with parents can be explained by the fact that as a child grows into an adolescent, he develops an autonomous behavior leading to the want of being independent. As a result of this, adolescents approach different sources of information such as the media. “Depending on their rate of development, some adolescents may succumb to media influences, while other may not.” (Werner-Wilson, Morrissey & Fitzharris, 2004). Adolescents seem to be a predominant target by the media as they are constantly exposed to it and constantly seeking information from it.

Ever since the discovery of AIDS in the early 1980s, it became important to educate the population about the protection against sexually transmitted diseases. From that time one, sex became less taboo, hence allowing the media to expose the subject publicly and without restrains. According to Hawk, Vanersenbeeck, de Graaf and Bakker (2006), the more often adolescents are exposed to media, the earlier they are prone to become sexually active.

On the other hand, because mass media is becoming more accessible to adolescents, it is also becoming a way for individuals to inform themselves and witness sexual behavior (Brown, 2002). Therefore, mass media also has its advantages in terms of influencing teens in their sexual behavior. Adolescents are sometimes exposed to good media such as information about their health, how to stay protected during intercourse and gives them ways to learn more about their bodies. According to Keller and Brown (2002), mass media may be very useful to teach teenagers about their sexual health in such a way that they would be more comfortable learning from the media rather than from their parents. Also it has been shown in the same research, that mass media is associated with information about contraceptive use which is an essential element in a healthy sexual relationship for teens.

“Empirical evidence suggests that television and other media influence adolescents’ attitudes and behaviors” (Werner-Wilson, Morrissey & Fitzharris, 2004). Therefore the purpose of this research is to assess how mass media influence teens in their sexual behaviors. Using peer reviewed articles; it will be shown that mass media influences teens in their sexual behaviors negatively. In order to carry out this research paper, the disciplines that will be integrated are those of sociology and psychology. Sociology being the study and classification of human societies, it will be used to observe the adolescents’ behavior and reaction to the sexual content they come in contact with. The psychology discipline, however, will be used to assess what is happening in the teenagers mind when they are exposed to sexually explicit or implicit media.

Adolescent Sexuality

It is apparent that the age for reaching puberty has gone down since a few years ago. The body undergoes a biological revolution that dramatically changes the adolescent’s anatomy, physiology and physical appearance. The increase in the levels of the sex hormones results in a variety of changes in the bodies of adolescents during puberty. Girls start to have breasts and have their first menstruation and boys start to learn how their genitals function due to their first ejaculation. Developing earlier than they did in the past, adolescents’ bodies mature at a higher speed than their minds.

“Increasingly earlier physical development offers a possible explanation as to why adolescents see to do things earlier than their parents” (Chapin, 2000). Since adolescent are growing faster into adults, they have to match to the social burden that they are faced with. Society has become more sexual over the years and so adolescents feel forced to adapt to society by adjusting themselves to the sexual content showed in the media.

Sexual content in multimedia

To begin with, there are many types of media that may end up influencing teens in their sexual behavior. Among others, these forms of media include movies, television and music videos. In 2001, an article by Stern and Handel presented research about the influence of teens’ sexual behaviors with respect to movies. Research demonstrated that adolescents imitate sexual behaviors seen in movies or theatres. “Girls reported that they adopted their flirtatious postures of starlets, and that after seeing a sexy movie, they were driven to find men to sleep with. Boys, likewise, claimed that they learned how to kiss and make love from cinema, and some claim to have been driven to rape.” (Foreman, 1933 as cited in Stern & Handel, 2001). This research shows evidence that cinema influences teenagers negatively in their behavior in the scope of sexuality. One might say that sexually explicit movies are “R” rated and inaccessible to teens but according to Greenberg et al. (1993) “Two thirds of Hollywood movies made each year are R-rated but most people have seen these movies long before they are the required 16 years old. (as explained in Stern & Handel, 2001)

Following the subject of cinema, the influence of television on adolescents’ sexual behavior seems to be predominant nowadays. As technological advances are growing , the access to the media through television is becoming more common in US households: 98% have at least one television, 70% have more than one television, 70% have cable, and 51% of household with children have a computer. (Werner- Wilson et. al. 2004) According to the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, when an adolescent watches sex on TV, it predicts and may advance the adolescents’ sexual behavior.



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