Negative Effects of the Media on Teenagers

Updated April 17, 2017

It's estimated that by age 17, a teenager has been exposed to more than 250,000 advertisements through the Internet, television and films, reports Although media can be a useful tool for connecting with others and gathering information, many aspects of media have negative impacts on the younger generation.

Promoting Sterotypes

Most television shows and commercials portray men and women in idealised forms that contribute to the development and perpetuation of stereotypes. Many characters are shown with unrealistically thin or muscular bodies that can influence teenagers to feel as though they need to change themselves or their physical appearances to be accepted. Girls most commonly develop destructive eating or exercising habits in order to achieve the "thin ideal," and boys often try to fit the role of the lean, muscular men they see advertised on television and in magazines.


According to a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest conducted in December of 2003, exposure to violent media -- such as violent video games, television shows and movies -- causes a rise in aggressive behaviour in teenagers and young children. Even short-term exposure to violence in the media raises the likelihood of verbally and physically aggressive behaviour in minors, and frequent exposure to violence in the media is linked to aggression later in life. Frequent exposure to violence can lead to a desensitisation toward violence in teenagers. The amount of aggression caused by violent media depends on identification with aggressive characters, parental influences and the attractiveness of the violence displayed in the media.

Sex and Sexuality

Media has a significant impact on a teenager's views on sexuality. According to Crisis Connection, 75 per cent of teenagers believe that what they see on television and in movies makes teenage sex seem acceptable and normal. Teenagers are also likely to cite media as a top source for information about sexuality and sexual health, and many younger teenagers cite the media as a major source for sex education. Over-sexualised media may prompt more teenagers to take part in sexual activity because it seems normal in the media. According to a 2003 research study reported in Pediatrics, teenagers who were exposed to a higher amount of sexual media between ages 12 and 14 were 2.2 times more likely to participate in sexual activity than students who had lower exposure by the time they were between ages 14 and 16.


According to a research study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2004, childhood obesity rates rose from 4.2 per cent to 15.5 per cent between 1963 and 2000. Experts link the increased amount of media available to teenagers as a possible cause for the increase in childhood obesity. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and teenagers spend an average of five hours a day using different types of media, including the Internet and watching television. Many of these media sources promote candy, soda, snacks and fast food. These advertisements influence unhealthy food choices, and the amount of time children spend with media takes away time spent doing physical activity. On top of this, many children snack on unhealthy foods while using these different types of media. This, in combination with the cross-promotions between food advertisements and popular television shows, can lead teenagers to develop unhealthy lifestyle habits that lead to greater health problems down the road.

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About the Author

Megan Kelly started writing professionally in 2007 when she was published in the anthology, "Lit Kids: Mama Bird and the Electric Rabbit" through Mill City Press. She is also a submissions reviewer and grant writer for "Spout Press," an independent magazine in Minneapolis. Kelly is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Minnesota.