It isn’t a controversial statement to make that mass media is arguably the most influential and impressionable force on the lives of young people all over the globe. Overall, the term is used to describe press, radio, television, internet, and literature, all of the various formats that come together to make up what we as a population consume as ‘media’. As technology has advanced throughout the decades, so has the human race’s dependence on its cumulative output, and as result, much conversation has been centred in recent years on the effect and influence that mass media overload can have on young and teenage minds. Is the influence a positive one or a negative one? Does it depend on the specific media being consumed? Does it depend on the individual? These are just three questions; there are so many more on the table. This essay aims to briefly discuss the influence of mass media on teenagers in greater detail.
The first issue that warrants discussion, one that impacts on everything else in an umbrella type fashion, is the simple fact of accessibility that young people have today to all forms of media. Whereas once upon a time the only exposure teenagers might have had was the selected programmes on a handful of television channels and the menu of news selected by broadcasters, there is now an open gate to an entire world of information. On one hand, this can be argued to be a good thing, allowing teens to seek their own media and cultivate their own world education and experience. On the other hand, however, a problem can arise in terms of the quality, authenticity, and safety of the content that they are accessing in this age of ‘fake news’ and internet trolling. Relating back to the key topic word of ‘influence’, it can therefore be argued that the relative freedom teens have to seek out unlimited and unregulated entertainment and information can become a dangerous situation.
Of course, this argument leads in to another key element of the discussion, which is the element of the individual being responsible rather than the available mass media. When it comes to how much time one spends on social media platforms, how much time one spends playing video games, and how much time one spends watching television, those are all choices that are made by the individual. The media is always there ready to be consumed, but ultimately it is the active choice of the person in question how long they allow themselves to be exposed. Of course, the more vulnerable or susceptible a person is, the more likely they are to be influenced, so the dynamic exists as something of a double edged sword.
The issue of addiction is something that is becoming more and more prevalent amongst young people with regards to their relationship with mass media. The last two generations, one could say, have grown up never knowing a world without the kinds of technology that opens up the world to you, and conversely, opens up you to the world. Whereas an adult of 35 years and older might not be so reliant on an online existence, the lives of teenagers in 2018 are so intertwined with Internet activity that they can almost be seen as a captive market. There is no doubting that companies use this modern predicament to promote and push various products, trends, philosophies, and ideologies, to the point where impressionable young people can certainly be influenced by what they are seeing in day in day out.
On the darker, more sinister side of the argument, there is the notion of formats like video games and aggressive music being responsible for influencing and cultivating an air of violence in teenage consumers. Admittedly, there are high profile cases of incidents that bear unfortunate similarities to graphic gaming and media, but given the overwhelming percentage on the contrary, it is hard not to consider this as just another footnote in the wider scope of individual decision and choice over overt mass media influence.
In conclusion, it would be fair to surmise that the issue of mass media having influence over the teenagers of today is one that is never going to be ‘solved’ or placed comfortably in one bracket or another. The wide reaching grasp of the internet and all that it entails is only going in one direction, and that is forwards and upwards. As a result, it is going to be up to teens themselves to mould their own experiences. The will to influence on mass media’s part is transparent and unapologetic, so it is going to remain the responsibility of the individual to determine how much they expose themselves to and how much they allow it to affect them. Of course, as with any topic involving the state of the human mind, nothing is ever as cleat cut as that.