Media and Press
By the time a young person is 17 years old, on average they have received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media.
It's hard to get away from the influence of the media. TV adverts, billboards, even programmes or websites can be heavily influential, because often somebody has been payed behind the scenes to steer the mood or topic of the programme or website towards influencing you to want to look a certain way, go to a certain place or buy a certain thing. This can sometimes have such a strong effect that it is not unusual for kids to feel that their importance as a person depends on how cool their trainers are. The media and advertising industry is very clever at manipulating people, they've had many years of practice and are advised by experts.
Think for yourself, don't be manipulated!
Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself when you are viewing media images, or information.
- Who paid for this magazine page about this new product? (are they trying to get me to buy something?)
- Is what I'm reading/hearing/seeing fact or fiction? How do I know for sure?
- Is this a biased opinion? Whose voice is missing?
- Is this disturbing? Do I need to stop watching?
Even before the influence of modern day media, there was fashion amongst the middle (and especially) the upper class in society. Being fashionable meant being accepted, just as it often does today. For upper and middle class girls in China up until the early 20th century this meant that in order to marry and not be a financial burden on your family, you must bind your feet with cloth to stop them growing, which was painful and also meant that you had great difficulty in walking.
The reason that I am mentioning footbinding is that people will sometimes go to extremes to be accepted and to be admired. Chinese footbinding was very different from the media pressure, or peer pressure which we experience today in our country. Chinese girls simply had to do it, or else they would be seen as an outcast from society and no man of any standing would want to marry them, which often meant that they would have no way of bringing in money. There are many more examples of this kind of pressure from society, meaning that people (usually women, or young girls) have felt trapped into doing what society wanted.
In our culture there is huge media influence and peer pressure, but luckily we have much more freedom to express our selves in our own unique way. This is wonderful, but it is hard not to be influenced by what you see in the media, even if you think that are not influenced directly by the media, then probably your friends will be and it's likely that you might get swept along with what they are doing or thinking.
Tall and Skinny
In a recent survey by Teen People magazine, 27% of the girls felt that the media pressures them to have a perfect body
For the last forty or more years it has been fashionable to be tall and skinny. This means that most of the pretty girls that we see in magazines, papers or on the tele or internet are skinny and tall. There are obviously plenty of beautiful girls that are not tall or skinny, but we don't see them so much in the media. Therefore tall and skinny is what we see as being the cool beautiful way to be, this is what we imagine everyone else thinks is beautiful, as that is mostly what we are seeing and so in our minds the taller and skinnier we are the more beautiful we are. See how the media can directly affect the way you think!
This is a major influence on the rise in dangerous eating disorders such as anorexia and bolemia and a rise in the numberof young girls (and boys too sometimes) who diet and are obsessed with calorie counting, often not eating a healthy balanced diet at a time when their bodies are still growing and need good nutrition.
In the past it was seen as more beautiful to have a bit of chubbiness, as this showed that you could afford to eat well and were likely to be healthier.
Really what is beautiful, is for a person to be the type of body shape that they are naturally when they are eating a good healthy balanced diet (not over eating , or under eating) and this varies for each person.
Don't forget that inner beauty shines out through your eyes whatever your size or body shape!
Television ('The drug of the nation')
The Mediascope National Television Violence Study found that children are:
- learning aggressive attitudes and behaviours
- becoming desensitized to real world violence
- developing a fear of violence
Inappropriate sexual images or information
The media is also exposing teenagers and sometimes children to sexual images and ideas about sex, that may not always be heathy attitudes, or may not be appropriate, and could be very upsetting or disturbing.
Make sure that you and your parents have good advice about how to protect yourself from being exposed to inappropriate images and information on the internet and how to be safe on-line.
Violence is also something which is often shown on the media, even on the news we can be suddenly confronted with frightening and shocking images of violence and suffering and this can sometimes be overwhelming. It is important thaty we keep our feet on the ground in the reality of our own lives and don't get led down paths of fearful thinking that could lead to depression. Computer games are often violent and can de-sensitise children to violence. Be aware of how you are feeling when you are playing a game or watching something, are you feeling scared, or confused, is there a bad feeling in any way. If there is then you must stop immediately. Computer games aren't controlled as much as they should be by law or by parents and some children can be traumatised by seeing a game which their older brother is playing.
On television, perpetrators (baddies) go unpunished 73% of the time. This gives the message that violence is a success.
Look after yourself!
Films have ratings based on what has been carefully assessed by experts to be appropriate for different age ranges. Obviously nobody will know if you watch something which is meant for 15 or 18 yr olds when you are 12 years old. Sometimes you might not realise why they have judged it as being for older people until you start getting nightmares and disturbing confusing images coming into your mind. Remember that it is not only the job of your parents and society to protect you, but it is also up to you to look after yourself. Never do something because you feel under pressure from your friends or society, if you are not sure about it , then DON'T DO IT! Be strong, stand up for yourself and do things because you want to and because you feel comfortable doing it.
Take time out
Today's youth culture is very much based around computer games and social media. It's hard to avoid it, as it's likely that most of your friends are very much absorbed in it and there is alot of media and peer pressure to become wrapped up in this virtual world, living life through a screen.
It's exciting, it's the way people communicate now and interact, but don't lose yourself in it. Take time away from social media, the press, TV and the internet just to be still for a while and remember who you are, be present in your body, aware of your senses and in the stillness of the moment. Then you will find that you are stronger, you might become more sensitive to how you are feeling and more aware of when something feels wrong. Try and make time to reconnect with your self through quiet meditation.
Hopefully through being aware of how the media can affect you and your friends, you might sometimes want to take a step back, feeling a bit stronger and not so tossed around by the waves of fashion and media influence.
Here are some good tips on how to protect yourself and become more aware of bad media influence:
Here are some basic rules which will help you:
1. DO THINGS BECAUSE YOU WANT TO
NOT BECAUSE PEOPLE WANT YOU TO BUY SOMETHING, OR BECAUSE YOU THINK OTHER PEOPLE WILL THINK IT'S COOL.
2. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES
3. CREATE SOME QUIET TIME FOR YOURSELF AWAY FROM MEDIA INFLUENCES
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