The media's influence on risky teenage behaviour, body image and violence

The media’s influence on risky teenage behaviour, body image and violence

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We constantly see messages about body image taking front stage in mainstream media, especially over the last few decades. Everywhere you look there seems to be messages about what people are expected to believe is beautiful, and unfortunately even what people are expected to believe isn’t.

Everyone knows the pressure this can have on people, and it is a problem for both men and women. It seems almost everybody is obsessed with having the perfect body, and those who follow this message often end up unhealthy or unhappy about their body image, which influences self-esteem and relationships.

Instead of accepting we are all different, and celebrating people for their merits, such as personality, efforts and achievements, we are constantly bombarded with body image being all important, and at times even told that merits are nothing without the right body image to go with it.

The mainstream media regularly promote diets, fitness regimes and even psychology from celebrities. These fads are often not based on science. This advice can be unhealthy, and toxic., Younger adults and adolescents, without proper guidance, can easily fall prey to this trap of modern media.

For example, a quick look at the news online reveals the current celebrities are being promoted as perfect!. For the last week the media has been obsessed with Khloe Kardashian weight loss. The articles mention her diet, workout plan, what people around her think of her transformation and appearance, and even Khloe’s own tips for plastic surgery choices. They quote her and other celebrities mentioning her being an inspiration, along with listing her own motivation to lose weight coming from things such as Beyoncé’s latest nude dress photos, her interest in a new vegan diet and the main achievement of losing weight attributed to the fact she recently had a baby.

These kind of articles are often based on sensationalism. Following advice in these type of articles will almost certainly lead to zero benefits, wasted time, and at the extreme end, possibly even depression and feelings of insecurity over body image leading to surgery. These articles recommend surgery for the most basic things whereas people should be considering making an appointment with a nutritionist or personal trainer.

Mainstream promotion of body image often affects young people. As young people enter puberty, what they see in the media can influence their values and beliefs. Some of the most common things mainstream media promotes is gender roles in modern society, which are often not based on reality, but are often adopted by many young people. These promoted beliefs can be dangerous views to hold. These types of stories sell, as they appear to be giving good advice on how to be successful and popular, so without proper adult guidance throughout adolescence, young people can end up forming views of society which are totally outside reality and often damaging to their own mental and physical health and safety.

Promotion is not only limited to body image, but now regularly includes relationship articles and advice. Articles of this nature often promote false and dangerous ideas, such as normalising the idea of male gender violence as a genetic predisposition in all men, that caring and sensitive men are not normal, that abusive relationships are common and at times normal, that women are solely responsible for contraceptive controls, that men express their feelings through violence and physical/verbal abuse and that men control sexual advances and are aggressors while women’s role is to submit to these acts.

While the above may seem extreme to those of us who have been brought up critical of modern media, there are still plenty of young people who grow up believing at least some of these perceptions. The effects of which can be damaging as people enter into relationships with unrealistic goals and can even begin to believe criminal behaviour is commonplace and acceptable.

Feeling positive about one’s self, one’s own body and one’s own actions, along with respecting the same in other people, is something often overlooked in the media, but is commonplace in regular society. It is important for busy parents to also remember that it is not the media’s role to raise your children. Most times schools cannot raise children in a manner reflective of society, as they focus almost solely upon educational standards rather than real world advice, although this is changing in recent years. Parental advice, role modelling and guidance will always be the best way to ensure children grow up with a balanced view of the world, based on reality, healthy knowledge and understanding of cautions to undertake while progressing into adulthood.

When a young person is growing up, they need life experience advice from parents and guardians to set the boundaries for their knowledge of self-belief, self-behaviour, and acceptable behaviour of others, along with a critical way to analyse mainstream media. This will ensure they have the skills to give them the best possible chance at a healthy and happy adult life.

For more information, please visit the Growing and Developing Healthy Relationships Guide.