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Date: March 6, 2013 To: Dr.

Powell From: Jenny Pirot Subject: Effect of Media on Adolescent Psychological Health

ABSTRACT The purpose of this report is to investigate the effects of the media on the psychological well-being of adolescents. The report will accomplish this goal through reviewing previous research. One journal article that will be examined focuses on the medias effect on teenage girls body image (Anschutz et al. 26). This article presents evidence that watching movies of thin models reduces body satisfaction of the viewer. Another journal article examines the relationship between violent media and aggressive attitudes (Selah-Shayovits 99). There is evidence to support that teenagers who watch violent television tend to have high aggression levels. A third journal article focuses on the medias effect on smoking habits (Davis, Nonnemaker, and Farrelly 430). The article suggests that anti-smoking campaigns on television have a beneficial effect on teenagers smoking attitudes. Finally, the last journal article provides evidence that teenagers who watch news media are more likely to take part in civic engagement than those who do not (Erentait et al. 587). The collection of these research findings provides insight on the medias beneficial and detrimental effects on adolescent development.

INTRODUCTION The media has become a part of daily life for people throughout the world. Although it undoubtedly affects people of all ages, its effects are particularly significant at a time of emotional instability and identity development- adolescence. What impact does the media have on adolescents psychological development? Several research studies have shed some light on this question. One such study analyzes the role of watching thin focused television on young girls body satisfaction (Anschutz et al. 26). Another study investigates the relationship between watching violent television and engaging in aggressive acts (Selah-Shayovits 99). A third journal article examines the benefits of anti-smoking television campaigns on smoking behaviors of adolescents (Davis, Nonnemaker, and Farrelly 430). Finally, Erentait et al. (587) found a correlation between watching news media and civic engagement in adolescents. Overall, whether media is a beneficial addition to adolescents lives is a complex issue that must be investigated carefully.

EFFECT OF MEDIA ON ADOLESCENT BODY IMAGE As children transition into adolescence, they are likely to experience dissatisfaction with their body image. Sixty percent of American teenage girls believe they weigh too much, even though only 15% are actually overweight (Arnett 350). This flawed perception is an important issue since it can lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders are in turn related to depression, anxiety problems, and substance use (Arnett 350). The media likely plays a role in body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. To investigate this claim, a study by Anschutz et al. (26) examined the role of watching thin focused television on young girls body satisfaction.

The study consisted of showing three short movie clips to 60 girls aged 9 to 12 (Anschutz et al. 26). One clip was explicitly about having a thin body image (similar to the show Americas Next Top Model); another movie hinted at the thin ideal (a soap opera); and the third clip contained neutral material (a show on birds). After watching each clip, the girls completed questionnaires on their body dissatisfaction. In order to quantify their body dissatisfaction, the girls were shown drawings of several body silhouettes, ranging from underweight to obese. They were asked to select the silhouette that represents their actual body image, and the silhouette which represents their ideal body image. The greater the difference between the two silhouettes, the higher their body dissatisfaction (Anschutz et al. 28). The results of the study indicated that sixth grade girls had greater body dissatisfaction after watching the explicitly thin-idealized material than after watching the neutral clip (Anschutz et al. 29). Younger girls, however, were not affected by the clip (Anschutz et al. 29). So, it appears that as girls enter adolescence, they are especially susceptible to being influenced by the medias thin ideal. One weakness of this study was that the sample size of 60 was a bit small, since it only included 20 girls from each grade. In addition, this study only measured the immediate impact of watching the clips. Perhaps the impact was only temporary, and thin-idealized media doesnt really affect girls in the long run. It would be informative for future studies to investigate long term effects of thin-idealized media.

EFFECT OF MEDIA ON ADOLESCENT AGGRESSION Many teens enjoy watching violent television shows. Does viewing such shows have an effect on the teens aggression in real life? One study by Selah-Shayovits investigates this

question. The study involved 921 adolescent participants (Selah-Shayovits 99). Each adolescent was given a questionnaire, which consisted of three parts (Selah-Shayovits 104). The first part contained demographics information on the adolescents age, race, etc. The second part sought information on the teenagers viewing habits, and asked questions such as, Do you like to see

violence on television? The third part of the questionnaire measured the aggression levels of the subject. It asked questions relating to how often the teenager hit other people or broke objects out of anger. It encompassed not just physical aggression but also verbal and propertyrelated aggression (Selah-Shayovits 104).
The results of this study showed that teenagers with high levels of physical aggression preferred watching violence twice as much as teenagers with low physical aggression levels ( Selah-

Shayovits 108). Of course, the direction of causation is unknown. Another important result was that
members of street gangs were 3.3 times more like to watch violent television than academic students not involved in a gang (Selah-Shayovits 108). One of the limitations of the study is that it does not differentiate between different types of violence on television. Perhaps different types of violence yield different results. Also, self-report questionnaires are not always reliable as the subjects may lie or may not fully understand the questions.

EFFECT OF MEDIA ON ADOLESCENT SMOKING Adolescence is a time when people are especially susceptible to initiating unhealthy habits such as smoking. Most people who smoke begin doing so in their early teens (Arnett 386). Its imperative that the causes of smoking are further investigated, because smoking leads to more deaths and illnesses than all other illegal drugs combined (Arnett 386). It is interesting to

note that among different countries, the United States has one of the lowest percentages of teenage smokers (Arnett 386). This low number of adolescent smokers may be due to the widespread diffusion of anti-smoking campaigns. Do smoking prevention commercials really impact smoking behavior? Researchers Davis, Nonnemaker, ad Farrelly conducted a study to shed some light on this question. They collected their data using a national phone survey of 35,000 adolescents aged twelve to seventeen (Davis, Nonnemaker, and Farrelly 430). First, they measured the subjects exposure to anti-smoking commercials, by asking them to recall certain ads. Then, they asked each subject to approximate, out of ten adolescents his age, how many smoke (Davis, Nonnemaker, and Farrelly 430). The results indicated that exposure to the truth campaign (one of the largest non-smoking advertising campaigns), was correlated with fewer perceived adolescent smokers. In fact, adolescents with exposure to the truth campaign perceived 1.4% fewer smokers than those with no awareness of these ads (434). So, from this study, media use may actually have a beneficial impact on our youth. One of the strengths of this study is the large sample size of 35,000 adolescents. However, it may be more interesting for future studies to ask the subject if he/she personally smokes, rather than asking about his/her perception on others. This data would be more concrete and less opinion-based.

EFFECT OF MEDIA ON CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Although much of the media adolescents are interested in isnt very mentally stimulating, there is plenty of media available that is educational and may have positive effects on the psychological and social development of adolescents. For instance, an interest in news media may be associated with higher civic engagement. One study by Erentait et al. (587) sampled

2638 adolescents from eight different schools. The adolescents were given one questionnaire on civic commitment, which asked them to rate the importance of them personally helping their country, fighting prejudice, helping people who are less fortunate, etc. The adolescents were then asked questions on their intent to engage in civic activities in the future (for example, does the adolescent intend to participate in student council?). Then, the subjects were tested on their voluntary activity. Given a series of kind acts and voluntary activities, the adolescents had to rate how often they engaged in that activity, from never to more than once a month. The fourth area of measure was the subjects interest in media. The adolescents were asked how often they watch, listen, or read the news. Finally, the participants were asked how often they discuss the news material with parents or friends (Erentait et. Al 590). The results of the study indicated that having a high interest in news media, as well as discussing the media, was associated with more civic engagement (Erentait et. Al 592). So although many people argue that watching television decreases involvement in the community (due to time wasted and isolation from others), this study shows that news media may actually promote activities like voting, volunteering, helping fight injustice, etc (Erentait et. Al 593). While this study is informative, it may have been even better if it had distinguished between different types of media. For instance, watching the news may be very different from reading the newspaper, yet the two acts were pooled together in the study. Perhaps future studies can separate the media types and look at each one individually.

CONCLUSION Several studies have investigated media use during adolescence, and each one had significant findings which aid in having a clearer idea of the medias impact on youth. Some

studies suggest the media is an unhealthy addition to adolescents lives. For instance, thinidealized media seems to lower adolescent girls body image satisfaction. In addition, violent television shows may promote aggression in teens. However, there is also research that indicates that the media can have beneficial effects on adolescent health. Anti-smoking ads may deter adolescents from smoking. Also, interest in news media has been shown to increase civic engagement, such as volunteering, voting, etc. From the results of the studies, its clear that there is some controversy on whether media use is beneficial. It seems like what may be of significant importance is not just time spent viewing media, but also the quality of the media. For instance, although anti-smoking campaigns may prevent smoking, there are surely other types of media that promote it. Also, while watching the news may increase involvement in the community, watching other television programs may isolate the viewer and reduce time spent interacting with others.

RECOMMENDATIONS A lot can be done to make the media a healthier part of adolescents lives. It is imperative that we improve the quality of programming for adolescents. Parents should encourage their children to watch the news, and families should discuss news events regularly. Also, more health campaigns need to be launched through the media. Researchers can also contribute to the issue. There need to be more longitudinal studies that look at the effects of media over many years. Also, there need to be more experiments that show causation, not just association.

WORKS CITED Anschutz, Doeschka, Donna Spruijt-Metz, Tatjana Van Strien, and Rutger Engels. The direct effect of thin ideal focused adult television on young girls ideal body figure. Body Image 8.1 (2011): 26-33. Web. 5 March 2013. Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. Human Development: A Cultural Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2012. Print. Davis, Kevin, James Nonnemaker, and Matthew Farrelly. Association Between National Smoking Prevention Campaigns and Perceived Smoking Prevalence Among Youth in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health 41.5 (2007): 430-436. Web. 5 March 2013. Erentait, Rasa, Rita ukauskien, Wim Beyers, Rasa Pilkauskait-Valickien. Is news media related to civic engagement? The effects of interest in and discussions about the news media on current and future civic engagement of adolescents. Journal of Adolescence 35.3 (2012): 587-597.Web. 5 March 2013. Selah-Shayovits, Revital. Adolescent Preferences for Violence in Television Shows and Music Video Clips. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth 13.1 (2006): 99-109. Web. 5 March 2013.