Friday, November 11, 2011

The Media Has Done WHAT to My Child?!

There has always been quite a bit of controversy on the subject of the media (incl. but not limited to magazines, television, movies, commercials, internet, radio, billboards, and even some video games) and the influence that it has on individuals, especially young ones. Advertising is in everything we see and everywhere we go, it is often influencing us when we don't even realize it.

As times get more modernized and technology gets more advanced, children are growing up in environments which are heavily influenced by the media and the ideals which are being portrayed nearly everywhere you look. Children who were being raised a century ago, or even fifty years ago, had very different influences growing up.

I asked a few questions on the subject of Professor Hugo Schwyzer (who in addition to being a professor, is an author and speaker, specializing in and writing about history and gender studies) via email. He had quite a lot of good points to make, which lead me to believe that my own concepts on the subject may not be far off!

Personally, I believe that the media does have a sense of responsibility to avoid delivering potentially dangerous messages, especially in the realm of body image, violence, and underage sex, drinking, and drugs. More so, it is important that there is an effort made to deliver certain positive messages, rather than just avoiding the negative messages.

Schwyzer pointed out, which I agree with, that censorship is certainly not the answer, but that the focus should be less on "cleaning up the internet" and more so on "giving young people something to look at that's healthy and engaging." This really hits home with the idea of delivering positive messages in lieu of simply attempting to eradicate the negativity. There will always be sources of negativity and I feel like we have to not only compensate with positivity, but teach and show our kids--and even our friends how to avoid being a sponge for the things that they read or see on a daily basis. It is important that we learn how to accurately filter the important and accurate pieces of information, opinions, and facts from the bits and pieces we absorb.

I've read many different studies on the effects on children who watch violent television and movies or play violent video games growing up. The amount of time spent seems like it would affect the outcome of these violent images as much as, if not more than, what they are seeing. As Schwyzer mentioned, how much time they are focusing on these activities is the biggest problem. Of course, everything is on a case-by-case basis, considering that many children were raised without violence in their households and turn into violent adults, while other children who were raised on violent movies, video games and television turn out to be quite passive individuals. In general, I think it's safe to say that it's a good idea to try to get your children and teenagers involved and interested in more productive and less potentially destructive hobbies and activities.

From personal experience and my observations of others, I feel it's safe to say that there is definite damages done to children and teenager by way of dangerous messages through the media. It seems to be a recurring thought in both my mind and the mind of Hugo Schwyzer that the possible damage reversal could be made possible with counter-images and stories. Along the same lines as delivering positive messages instead of just attempting to discourage negative messages, it is important to fill young minds with positive images and ideals so that they can see the "other" side of things. As Schwyzer said when discussing the dangerous messages of the media and their effect on teenagers, is that that's exactly what the Healthy is the New Skinny movement is going for: "changing what people see as hot, as sexy, as desirable".

It's also incredibly important to have actual discussions with young people about what they see and observe; what it means to them and how it impacts them. In order to truly find out how they are being affected by various images and messages, one must ask various questions and give them the opportunity to speak their mind and ask their own questions.

(Big thanks to Hugo Schwyzer for his input. He's a great author and quite a writer himself, so if you are interested in reading about him or reading his own blog(s), check him out @ If you're interested in reading more about Healthy is the New Skinny, which I barely touched upon, but plan to write much more about at a later time, you can view the site at

This is my first post on my new blog here! Expect to see more on this and other related subjects soon!

- D.M.

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