The media influences a great deal the manner in which we think and act. Its influence on the behavior of the society is profound. However, this influence can be twofold since there are always two sides of the coin. When the audience tries to copy something that they have heard or seen, are they in a strong position to distinguish exactly what is right or wrong? This is especially the case for the young people who have a tendency of imitating celebrities very blindly. In most cases, the highlights from the entertainment industry may talk about the wrong doings of these celebrities. When such highlights become constant, they will become imprinted on these young peoples’ minds. With their naivety, they may find it appropriate to imitate such behaviors. In the end, they will turn out to be irresponsible people. This is just one of the many negative influences of the media that this paper discusses. More specifically, we will discuss these influences in the family context.
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The level at which one perceives his/her attributes is also arguably the degree to which the same person will perceive that he/she actually possesses these attributes. For instance, a person can perceive himself as highly intelligent and act like one. In the end, he may turn out to be highly intelligent. Self-esteem is the way one perceives him/herself. The ideal self-esteem is whereby one regards him/herself very highly and will treats with a lot of respect. This simply means that one’s ideal self can represent the traits, values, and competencies that a person would like to have. To put it in other words, it can also represent the attributes that a person desires a lot to have. Therefore, he/she would like other people to believe that they possess these desired attributes. The ideal self-esteem varies from person to person since people have different characteristics. It can also be argued that almost all persons would try to work towards reaching their ideal self-esteem. However, not everyone reaches this level (Al Duncan).
The media has a lot of influence on the self-esteem of the young people. This influence is arguably the greatest amongst young girls. The impact of the media on teenagers, and especially young girls, has been of interest in the past few years. It has been universally agreed upon that most teenage girls are mostly focused on how they look. However, a majority of them will focus solely on those ‘beauty’ attributes that they detest about themselves. For many years now, advertising agencies and marketing schemes use millions of dollars on an annual basis, especially targeting girls, who in the end up spending a lot of money with the pretext of looking good. In most media outlets, the idea of ‘super thin is beautiful and sexy’ has always been promoted. This simply means that these girls will spend a lot of their efforts and parents’ money on dieting so that they become thin at all costs. Becoming thin, thereby ‘beautiful’ and ‘sexy’, becomes their ideal self-esteem. Therefore, a girl that will not become ‘thin enough’ will regard herself as being ‘ugly’. She will start to suffer from low self-esteem (Nault).
In the American society, fat girls are always the target of derogatory jokes in the media and movies. Most people will poke fun at their weight, which affects the girl’s wellbeing. Their low self-esteem will be reflected in their social mannerisms. They will most likely be withdrawn from the rest or may find it okay only to hang around other fat girls. Their withdrawal from the society will no doubt be translated to their families. Their changed attitudes may mean that they may not be willing to open up even to their parents. As a result, they may feel neglected. This will undoubtedly affect their school performance, further compounding their situation. In a family setup, every member has to feel loved by the rest. When even one of them withdraws, it ceases to be an ideal family setup. A lot of distrust will emerge since the member will feel that he/she is being neglected.
The media has a great influence on how people view their world, how they socialize and how they develop. In addition, it influences people’s knowledge, values, and opinions. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to be overwhelmed by the messages and information that they receive from these media outlets. This is what is often referred to as media pressure. While adults may be more experienced to ably deal with this media pressure, the same cannot be said of the relatively young children, adolescents and the young adults (CYH).
In today’s media, eroticization of young girls is a common phenomenon. This eroticization reaches alarming levels, especially in advertising and fashion. This pressure becomes great when the media portrays the girls in very sexual ways. In the past few years, this eroticization has led to girls, some as young as twelve or thirteen, being portrayed as women (Kermond). When this habit becomes dominant in the media, the young girls may be forced to believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the eroticization (Media Awareness Network). They may start wearing exposing outfits, while some may believe that they are actually adults and start behaving so. This will bring about confrontations with their parents who may fear that their young daughters may be subjected to sexual harassment. These girls may also start to despise their parents, viewing them as outdated. This will bring about conflicts in the family. The lack of peace in the family has a detrimental effect on all the family members.
Action movies are very popular in the entertainment industry. However, their effects on the minds of the naïve growing persons can be destructive. Most of them, after watching a substantial number of these movies, will try to imitate the actors from the films in the real life. Their behaviors can become very aggressive. They may become violent when growing up and remain so for the rest of their lives. The consequences of violence can be fatal at times since it may lead to the formation of gangs. Violence may also promote the use of addictive drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. The family setup in which some members are alcoholics, drug addicts, and violent will be full of conflict. The family members will not be able coexist. Therefore, rather than the family being a place where peace and tranquility prevail, it takes the shape of a dysfunctional unit.
How the Media Portrays Us
How the media portrays a family is very important since the media, especially the television, is a great learning source about the family: what it looks like, how the parents are to behave, the ideal family setup, parents’ expectations of their children, and how family problems are resolved. However, the ways in which the media portrays the family varies according to the type of the programming. Therefore, it cannot be objectively stated how exactly the media portrays the family. For instance, soap operas, family dramas, and situation comedies have varying portrayals of the family. A majority of them will portray the family as an ideal setup, where true love exists. However, there are some programs that portray the family as a dysfunctional structure, a place of endless conflict, accompanied with a lot of drama from the family members. Fighting, jealousy, and distorted relationships have always been displayed in television programs, including ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ (Television and Family).
Over the years, there have been many television programs that featured the family a primary theme (Little House on Prairie, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show and Family Matters and Home Improvement). All of these had the careless family themes that tried to portray the family setups as an ideal structure for all to follow. However, there have also been programs that have had a cynical view on the family (The Simpsons and Roseanne). The two extremes support the fact that the family is portrayed both positively and negatively in the media. This simply means that a person may have different perceptions of the family by virtue of the type of program he/she watches (Television and Family).
Why We Must Open Our Eyes
The media pressurizes young people into imitating certain habits and characters that are, to put it simply, bad. They may try to copy bad role models. As it has already been mentioned, young girls may take up non-healthy eating habits just because they want to be like their ‘supermodels’. Some of them may go for plastic surgery so that they can look “beautiful”. There are also some instances where incorrect information is passed across. In addition, most of the movies always portray violence as a normal aspect in life. The sexualisation of small girls has a bad moral effect on them. In all these cases, the youth are misled into adopting bad habits that are detrimental to their health. Some of the young ones may even end up taking drugs after being pressurized by the media (Oak). The use of violence always has serious legal repercussions. However, all of these consequences could be avoided if the young people simply opened up their eyes.
The media is a very powerful tool. However, most of them just create illusions in the minds of these youths. Therefore, most of their resulting perceptions are just unreal. This simply means that the young people have to be aware of the fact that most of what they see is nothing but fantasy. The violence in the movies cannot be replicated in real life and thus have to be shunned. Young girls need to know that beauty is not defined by how thin they are. This is just a fallacy. Therefore, they go for non-healthy eating habits that will eventually affect their wellbeing. The sexualisation of girls under the age of eighteen is unlawful. Thus, they need to be aware of this fact. All the information found in the media cannot be trusted. This simply means that the youths have to consult with their parents and teachers on all pertinent issues. Everyone has to open their eyes so that they differentiate between fantasy and reality.
Effects on Healthy Childhood Development
It has been suggested that, nowadays, children spend most of their time on media, as opposed to other activities, except when they are asleep (Children Now). The implications of this overexposure are profound. First and foremost, it means that children do not spend adequate time with their parents. In other words, parents do not spend enough time with their children. The influence of parents on the growth and shaping of behavior of young children cannot be quantified, neither underestimated. Parents are supposed to be the primary role models for their children. It means that these growing children are supposed to interact with their parents so that they can copy their parents’ mannerisms (a parent will always strive to behave very well in front of their children). However, when children are not accorded such time, they will just copy anything and anyone. Since they are spending more time on the media, they are most likely to copy what they see. In very many cases, parents have no control of what is displayed on the media. Therefore, children may be forced to imitate what they constantly see, which means that they can take up bad habits (for instance, drug abuse, immorality, or violence) that are mostly showed in the media. In the end, they will turn out to be irresponsible persons. Their parents will also be labeled as grossly irresponsible since they have not given their children proper upbringing; instead, they have let the media play a great role in their children’s education.
Since watching television and the use of other media is a sedentary activity, children may grow obese since they literally do not do any form of exercise (The Age). Children need to play and explore if they are to develop more effectively. However, if they cannot do this, they miss a vital aspect of their lives since they learn a lot through playing and exploring. Their development is greatly hampered if they just sit in front of the television when they are awake. The lack of other activities also puts them at a great risk of growing obese, which has serious health implications, such as hypertension (Media Awareness).
Minimizing Negative Effects of the Media
The role of the parent in minimizing the effects of the media, alongside minimizing the media exposure of their growing children, cannot be underestimated. The parents have to talk to their children about media pressure. They have to clearly illustrate why the media can have a negative influence on the minds of their children. In addition, they have to be clever so that they can guide their children on who should be their role models, how to act, how to spend his/her spare time, what kind of people he/she should look up to, and many others. Since parents are the primary role models for their children, spending time with them to explain such issues will influence their media exposure. Guiding them through the differentiating the good from the bad in the media will go a long way in helping them make informed choices. Parents need to guide their children from a tender age (US Department of Education).
The influence of the media on young girls can also be minimized if their mothers clearly understood the issue. For instance, if a mother maintains a healthy diet, there is a greater chance that her daughter will do the same. The mother has to instill morality in her daughter by being moral herself. In addition, she should limit the daughter’s exposure to sexual content at home. Since children normally spend more time in their homes, restricted access to these sexual materials will be of benefit to the morality of the young people. In addition, young people have to be taught that most violent movies they watch are just mere fantasies. All in all, the parents have to demonstrate that peaceful coexistence is very important (US Department of Education).
Dealing with Media Pressure
First and foremost, youths have to be aware that the media pressure is real and that they can fall for it too. The media will always strive to make us buy their products using all possible means, with most of them applying deceptive tactics. Therefore, young people have to think twice before going for the product being marketed. Is it real? If it is, how badly do you need it? What are the long-term consequences? The youths should also analyze the advertisers. Reflecting on a piece of information is always good before going for it. The media people are always smart and know their specific targets. However, this does not mean that one should fall for their deceptions. A person should be in a position to weigh up his options before succumbing to any pressures (Nault).
Although there are some media that have a bad influence, some are actually informative. Therefore, a person should be in a position to identify what best suits them. Consulting with parents, teachers, and elders is certainly a good practice that should be adopted by the naïve youth. This will ensure that they do not blindly give in to undue pressures (Nault).