Teens and Media Influences Research Paper

Pages: 11 (4544 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

Teens and the Media

One prominent theory, Erik Erikson's Theory of Human Psychological Development breaks the entire human life cycle into stages. Each unique stage represents a generalized approach between the individual and the world, running from infancy to geriatric behavior. Even spanning time and culture, within each of these stages, a developmental period exhibits universal patterns (Weiten, 1995)the life-span developmental framework has, in fact, been utilized by social scientists for decades. The power of the combination of Erikson and Life-Span Development is that they uniquely focus on biological, cultural, socio-historical, and non-normative influences to provide us with a framework with which to understand and explain the particular stage a specific issue might have -- in my case, teenage years and the resultant angst, rebellion, and search for self (Rankin, 2000). From a sociological perspective, the 5th Psychosocial Stage -- Identity vs. Confusion is one of the more fascinating since it is both so problematical for the child and family, and so very crucial in the developmental cycle of maturation. For Erikson (Aquilino, 1997), this stage manifests itself in four major issues:

A Psychosocial Crisis -- Identity and Role Confusion

The search for "Who Am I?"

Ego and Fidelity

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Research Paper on Teens and Media Influences Assignment

Within the timeframe of this developmental stage, teens face a huge number of confusing messages -- about violence, sexuality, relationships, self-image, and more. For instance, for decades, researchers have been trying to answer the question on whether TV has harmful effects on young viewers. On the one hand, media and the Internet present huge opportunities for youth: learning about the world, humanity, and touching global issues like never before -- both the positive and negative. Media has been under attack on the grounds that it is heavily loaded with violence and sadism and that it encourages and stimulates aggressive behavior in the child and adolescent audience. This problem exists because children tend to imitate what they see and finally, and they have limited knowledge to evaluate, distinguish or understand what is good and what is evil (Potera, 2009).

Culture in the modern age is characterized by more complexity than ever before; particularly after the mass use of the Internet. Each particular ethnicity and culture must adapt into the culture as a hole, yet the way the Internet has changed the way humans act with each other has no precedent in history -- not even the telephone changed culture this dramatically (Storey, 2009). Less than two decades ago, primarily academics and scientists used the Internet. Today, it is a major contributor to increased global communication, data access, research, personal communication, social networking, and recreation. As Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft commented, "The main advantage of any new technology is that it amplifies human potential," clearly the Internet falls into that category (Gates, 2000). However, this mass use of technology -- computers, the Internet, Smart phones, hyper gaming, and online communities has changed the way that individuals interact and learn. Since teen years are so vulnerable and complex anyway, the addition of greater technological stressors compounds the socio-cultural template even more. Teenagers use all these technologies to learn, explore, play and interact -- and now they can do so globally within the confines of their room. Research results show that youth gravitate towards social media sites because they can "be themselves," in fact "be anything they wish to be," largely without parental supervision (Ahn, 2011). The central question, from a sociological perspective, centers around the effect that the combination of media (Internet, television, social networks, etc.) have on a population that is already somewhat vulnerable? In our case, we would hypothesize that the more a teenager views television or movies, or plays video games, or spends time in social networks, the more disconnected and vulnerable they feel.

Literature Review

Until the teen years, development is dependent upon life experiences, nurturing vs. conflict, etc. Going forward, development primarily focuses on what the individual actual does for themselves and how they react with society. During this stage, an adolescent must continually struggle to discover and attempt to find some sort of identity. This occurs while still negotiating and struggling with what society expects the teen to be; with social interactions, with fitting in culturally, and with the tremendous changes in physical and intellectual processes. Many times, too, teens try to run from their entrance into adulthood, withdraw from responsibilities, and shut off the messages that attempt to mold them into responsible human beings. Those teens who are not successful with this stage experience even more angst, confusion, and feels of persecution and panic than control groups. Still, most begin to develop a strong affiliation and devotion to ideals, causes, and friends (Erikson,1968; Marcia, 1966).

The angst the most teens manifest is a result of their concern about who they are inside and how they appear to society (peers, social groups, etc.). Their identity is in question since they have not really established their major personality, interests, or views on crucial cultural issues (Barkley and Robin, 2008). Hormones are raging and there is both a sense of awe in the changes puberty brings, but also a fear of sexual and emotional confusion. Add to this the modern trends of media bombardment, the half-life of technology, and increase pressures in school (violence, substance abuse, pressure to get into a good college, peer pressure, sexual and gender identity, and disease) and it becomes a whirling mass of uncertainty and volatility (Nichols and Good, 2004).

Because of the individual's unique ability to learn and develop, combined with the literally infinite number of characteristics that this stage takes on, it is difficult, if not impossible to define or predict teen behavior. Since the gradual process of puberty varies among individuals, it is not practical to set exact age or chronological limits in defining the adolescent period, other than to say in modern times and in the developed world, it occurs earlier and earlier. Teenagers are constantly fluctuation in mood -- highs to lows and everything in between, occurring rapidly and not having a tangible or easily identified causality (Edgette, 2002; Barkley and Robin).

One behavior, however, that seems generalized over most adolescents is their desire to "test the limits." This is the parental balance that comes with temperament and experience -- how to set limits and guidelines while, at the same time, allowing the teen to make their own mistakes and constructively learn from those errors in judgement. There seems no adequate way to prepare for the role of parenting a teen -- the emotional storms require patience, listening, and unconditional acceptance of the need to grow and explore- and to become their own person. One example is the idea of weblogs -- and the manner in which they can be used to document behavior online (Anderson-Butcher, D., et.al., 2010). This idea of "testing" limits is actually quite important from a sociological and cultural perspective. The emotional instability and erratic behavior that characterizes this age period, possibly the result of conflicting hormonal messages, also allows the adolescent the time and experience to find the boundaries of acculturation within their particular group. This might be based on views towards religion, spirituality, class structure, ethnicity, and sexuality. The teen cannot, nor is expected to, make up their mind about lifelong views on these subjects, but may experiment and use the testing period to find a comfortable balance from what they have been told vs. what they can experience for themselves (Sternheimer, 2010).

From a sociological perspective, the episodic growth and development within adolescence is best dealt with by being consistent in messages. Empathy and understanding of the physical and mental changes, coupled with clear messages about the various "agents of socialization," and how those agents can often seem contradictory and dichotomous will help the teen understand and cope with the myriad of mixed messages they receive. This must be coupled with decreasing supervision and guidance from adults in order to guide towards adult responsibilities. One might think that in an advanced technological society, moving from childhood to adulthood would be far easier. Consistently, children must "grow up" earlier based on the images to which they are exposed. The technological improvements, in fact, seem to shrink childhood and adolescence; all the while acknowledging that physically there are clear developments; but mentally and emotionally pushing those boundaries. Defining self, in fact, has never been more difficult, and requires even more patience, information, and time (Brym and Lie, 2007: Kaplan, 2007).

One of the larger trends brought about by the use of the Internet is the virtual community -- a social network of individuals who interact with each other without the constraints of geography, time zones, political or economic situations, weather, or demography -- all that matters is that they are able to come together to form a culture in which they share mutual interests or values. Typically this type of culture occurs through social networking and online communities, both of which have provided the "tipping point" and changed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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