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Media and Youth


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Media and Youth
In today’s world, it is hard to imagine life without technology. While there are still many adults who can remember life without the smart phone, laptop or tablet, the youth is a different story.
Desensitization to violence is a subtle, almost incidental process which may occur as a result of repeated exposure to real-life violence, as well as from exposure to media violence. Emotional desensitization is evident when there is numbing or blunting of emotional reactions to events which would typically elicit a strong response. Cognitive desensitization is evident when the belief that violence is uncommon and unlikely becomes the belief that violence is mundane and inevitable. Emotional and cognitive desensitization to violence decrease the likelihood that violent behavior will be either censored or censured. (Funk, 2004 p. 3)
Although violence and sex have always been a part of every culture, the youth of today are more exposed to it than before through the different types of media. The advancement of technology continues to increase as the need for constant connection to the media enhances. However, through this technology, the media has become a normalcy for today’s youth, which includes all of the negatives that go along with it. Over the years, the youth have become desensitized to all of the violence and sex in the media.
Music is now and will always be the largest media influence. Unlike visual media, music is a strong mental force that also connects to an individual’s personal identity, memories and emotions. From the slaves singing for inspiration or for secret messages to chants of peace and equality, the connection has always been there. Conversely, through the years, the content in the music has changed therefore the influence has increased. In the early 1900s it was common for families to sit together and listen to music. The music had little to no use of profanity or sexual content. The youth appeared to be very innocent. However, by the 1950s the beginning of Rock and Roll had parents at an uproar because of the sexual connotation in the songs. The teens responded to the change while girls blushed and screamed in excitement at Elvis Presley’s gyrating pelvis and boys tried to imitate him behind closed bedroom doors, yet at the same time keeping a child like demeanor in the public eye. Today’s music is full of violent and sexual content. The music is less censored in main stream radio and has become more accessible without parental consent. According to Parker-Pope (2008), “Teenagers listen to an average of nearly 2.5 hours of music per day”. Many lyrics today encourage pre-marital sex and girls degrading themselves for money, and confronting someone that is not from the right “hood”. The youth are not shocked, embarrassed or offended by the lyrics. However, they are relating to and imitating the lyrics. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine state that “Music is well-known to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development, perhaps more than any other entertainment medium.” Therefore, the youth are not just enjoying the music, they are the music. The youth are living through the lyrics. Young girls now encourage each other to have pre-marital sex with their boyfriends or random entertainers instead of dreaming about being a wife and mother because the lyrics tell them that is what must be done in order to impress that “special” guy or to marry an athlete. Young boys now degrade young women because the music lyrics say it is cool or they obsess over owning expensive cars and a lot of money, but not by working a regular 9-5, by “slanging dope”, robbing or killing. Although the results of the violent and sexual lyrics are saddening, that does not take away the influence that visual media has on our youth.
Over the past three decades, television has taken a drastic turn. Children are no longer being exposed to media that generally portrays a “perfect life”. It was common to watch shows like “Leave it to Beaver,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Cosby Show”. Sex was kept private with earlier broadcasts always showing two twin beds in the parent’s room. Although there were shows with violence it was kept to a minimum. Little boys were able to play cops and robbers with cap guns that mimicked the guns seen on television movies, with very little gory scenes. Little girls played with their baby dolls dreaming of having a family. The television shows were kept wholesome and the youth appeared to be wholesome as well.
Today’s shows and movies touch upon more realistic and sensitive issues. Television is very liberal now with displaying sex freely on every station and at any time of the day. Not only is violence the majority of what is heard on the news but it is very realistic in the movies. Children are now able to see a hole in a man’s chest without turning their heads or watching a person beaten by a mob and watch or walk away and not call the police for help. According to Schartzberg (1988) “Children may understand that what they see is made-up, but that does not stop them from believing it anyway. It now appears that even programs that are obviously fantasy can be judged by children as at least partly real”(p.9). Therefore the children begin to associate themselves with what they see or hear, much like with radio and also with video games.
The Surgeon General (1999) states, “the impact of video games containing violence has become a focus because children are hypothetically more prone to behavioral influences when they are active participants than when they are observers” (p. 22). When video games were first invented the games did not contain any adult content and if characters were on the game they were not life like. Although that could have been due to not having as much technology, nonetheless, the games were very cartoon like and most importantly geared towards children. The video games created a break from television shows, playing outside, or listening to music.
Today video games appear to be geared towards an adult audience. As the years progressed, so did technology and so did the video games. No longer do we see Mario and Luigi jumping on bricks for coins but characters that can be customized to any appearance, profanity, and ultra violence. The video games now give more points to the player for killing innocent bystanders, police, and prostitutes, by using guns, knives, flame throwers, swords and the list goes on to any weapon imagined. Some include cut scenes, which are brief movie clips supposedly designed to move the story forward, of the player going to a strip club. In some, the player assumes the role of a hero, whereas in others the player is a criminal.
Violent video games have been shown to increase aggression and delinquency. The two youths responsible for the killings in Littleton, CO avidly played Doom, a violent video game used to train soldiers to kill. They created a customized version of the game involving two shooters with unlimited ammunition, extra weapons, and defenseless victims—a fantasy which they later brought to reality in their high school (AAFP, 2004, p. 15).
Unlike the other forms of media, a video game can be controlled. The violent acts displayed on the screen are being created by the person maneuvering the controller. The games are encouraging our youth to be violent. The more violent the more levels the conquer and the more points they gain. Theoretically, the effects of exposure to media violence extend to Internet media as well. The internet is now the largest media resource. Individuals are able to access music, television, and video games through the internet. The internet can also now be accessed on the go through a cellular phone or laptop. The use of internet for the youth started in schools. It was used for educational games and tools. As the internet increased it became an even better tool for all genres of information, including violence and sex. Parents are able to block websites, however due to the amount of websites becoming available each day, every website cannot be blocked. Therefore, by allowing youth to access the internet they are exposed to all content available at the click of a button.
“What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.” David R. Stone
The media has slowly desensitized our youth to the violent and sexual dealings they must encounter from day to day. Whether through music, television, video games, or the internet the negative transformation in the generations shows that the increase in the content of violence and sex has made a change in the youth. The youth are the future and the need for more technology and constant media is showing a corruption in our youth thus a corruption in the future of generations to come.

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