To those of you who have ever doubted your own beauty, been called something you’re not because you look a certain way, or found that you can’t stray away from the messages that the media gives; this is for you:
My name is Annie Wu and I am thirteen years old, yet in the few years that I have been exposed to the excessive media, I have found that it has such a great impact on all of us: toddlers, young children, and teens alike. In my seventh grade language arts class, I was given the assignment to write about a social issue in the world that I found important. Immediately, I thought of the problem of the influence of mainstream media on adolescents. Whether we realize it or not, media is all around us: The newspaper on the front porch, the magazine in the mailbox, the computer on the desk, the television in the den, and so much more. All this media thrust upon children starting from a young age, seems to control their lives, telling them what to look like, how to act, and who they should be.
The influence of media on children is a huge issue in our world today and should be given a solution before too many of our generation’s children are affected. Media sets a standard for body image and what beautiful is. But, the truth is, there is no precise definition for beauty, although the media seems to have already defined it for us: thin, slender, and long-legged. With all the magazines, movies, television shows, and photographs, kids are widely exposed to the pictures of beautiful women that have bodies that are unusually skinny. And many, not being able to reach this unreasonable standard, settle for solutions that are not always healthy, such as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. What children exposed to media do not know is that the average model weights more than 25% less than the typical woman and is 15 to 20 percent below what is considered healthy for her age and height. One example of the effects of media is one of the people of Fiji. In 1995, television had not yet come to the island of Fiji, and the ideal body was soft and round. But after about 38 months, Western shows sprang into homes, and in the following years, 15% of the girls on the island had anorexia or other eating disorders. Something needs to be done in the world to stop children’s negative views of their bodies from becoming something that could change their lives forever.
Also, children are immersed in the media everyday of their lives, and each child has a certain role model they look up to. These figures are usually always celebrities that grace the pages of magazines, appear in movies, and act in multiple television shows. Although young boys and girls idolize these people and perceive them as heroes, many do not know the severe negative influences celebrities have on their lives. Celebrities have huge affects on the children of our society. What with Michael Phelps smoking marijuana, Lindsey Lohan continually in rehab, and Chris Brown’s assault, it is no wonder why children are being influenced. Young children are continually led astray by those celebrities that don’t always have their act together. Because teens and young kids everywhere idolize the celebrities they love, they tend to copy or imitate the actions of their heroes. But with paparazzi and cameras everywhere, celebrities are caught doing things that they don’t want their fans to see. The children, in turn, believe that because the celebrities and movie stars do it, they too should follow their steps in order to be popular. From this huge negative influence, more and more children find themselves smoking or drinking because their favorite celeb decided it was right.
Education, drugs, violence, addiction, fashion, stereotypes, obesity, peer pressure, and teen pregnancy are some of the many other affects that media has on children. With the media continually making stereotypes about smart children being “nerds” or “geeks”, grades seem to decline and education is not the priority in children’s lives that it once was. Also, obesity is starting to be a huge problem in America today. In 2005, $11,260,000,000 was spent on food advertising alone. In contrast, the same year, only $9,055,000 was spent on nutrition education for children. It is obvious that this increase in advertisements in the media has a huge affect on the obesity of children. Television and video games are also taking over many people’s lives and putting exercise and physical activity out of their mindset, increasing the obesity of children. Also, with The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Juno, teen pregnancy is perceived as a perfectly normal aspect of one’s average life, when it is visibly a major problem in our society today. Clearly, something needs to be done to help our society from taking the media’s entertainment, into something that is harmful and life altering.
Because mainstream media has so many huge affects of adolescents, this problem cannot be solved with just a few restrictions on how long a child is allowed to watch their favorite television show. There needs to be a group effort in helping the children from getting corrupt views from the media. After people learn that the media images are distorted and learn what a healthy, positive body image is, there will be fewer children who find themselves criticizing their bodies. And the use of drugs, profanity, and sexual activity should be monitored on television and in movies, to reduce the effect on children.
But, of course, many of us cannot change what is show on T.V. and we cannot stop young children from seeing the thousands of advertisements shown everyday. What every parent can do, however, is tell their child what they need to hear. Tell them that models are airbrushed, and their bodies aren’t really that perfect. Tell them that after they start drugs, like their favorite celebrity, there is no going back. Tell them that education comes first and with a little work now, their lives will improve in the long run. Teach them that violence is not the answer. Teach them that you don’t always have to keep up with the latest trends. And most importantly, teach them that media is not a front runner in our lives, and it should not become a necessity.
For all of you who spend hours in front of your computer or on the couch watching T.V., ask yourself if media is taking up the majority of your time. If they answer is yes, get up and go to the park, go shopping with a friend, read a book, draw a picture; there are so many options to get yourself going on something else. Try spending a few hours less in front of the T.V. or on the computer every day and see where that will get you. Who knows? You might even find something you like to do that you never knew of before. So get up and start to make a difference. And although this isn’t helping global warming, or preventing poverty, it’s doing something even more important: It’s making sure you’re life is a good one, one where the media isn’t making the decisions for you.