Negative Effects of Mass Media on Adolescents

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Negative Effects of Mass Media on Adolescents
Adolescents take in more than 53 hours of media per week. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average 8 to 18 year old in the U.S. spends an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media per day, adding up to over 53 hours of media usage per week. While studies show that some media with altruistic messaging can positively impact adolescents' sense of empathy, a broad base of research points to the potential negative effects of mass media on adolescents.

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Violence & Aggression

A substantial research base covering a variety of media types including film, television and video games shows that repeated viewing of violent mass media corresponds with increased violence and aggression in adolescents. A 2003 study published "Psychological Science in the Public Interest" claims that short-term exposure to violent media correlates with an increased likelihood for aggressive behaviour, thoughts and emotions. Long-term exposure has been linked with aggressive behaviour in adult life, such as physical assaults and spousal abuse.

Body Image

Constant exposure to mass media can distort body image among adolescents. Dr Jillian Croll of the University of Minnesota points out that "Adolescent females watching the most media idealising thin body types...report the highest body dissatisfaction and those watching music videos report a strong drive for thinness." Dr Croll says that even children's dolls provide skewed imagery. For example, if Barbie's boyfriend Ken were real, his disproportionate neck and chest would be too large for almost any shirt.

Altruism & Community-Oriented Behavior

Mass media has been shown to negatively affect altruism in adolescents. For example, Melanie Burleson Richards of Georgia State University found that increases in television consumption, video game play and Internet use all correlated with decreased importance of altruism among adolescents. Of the three media types studied, video game use was found to have the strongest negative effect on altruism.

Academic Development

Frequent exposure to mass media can negatively impact adolescents' academic development. High rates of mass media consumption can distract students from homework. According to the U.S. Department of Education, seventh graders in the U.S. spend an average of 135 minutes each day watching television and 57 minutes doing schoolwork. The Department of Education also reports that students who watch the most TV have lower test scores and grades than other students.

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