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Electronic Media Impact on Children & Adolescents


In today’s world, media has been playing a detrimental part to the people’s lives. Media is a short form of the term “media of communication” that is used to refer organized means of dissemination of facts, opinions, and entertainment such as newspapers, magazines, cinema films, radio, television, and the World Wide Web (Roberts, et. al. 1999). It should be noted that media is used for many different purposes. It is also used to target audiences with specific specifically age, gender, class and even ethnicity. This is the very reason why electronic media is considered to have the most profound effect and/or impact on children and adolescents.

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Various Uses of Media

Aside from that fact that media provides a cost-effective method for reaching large audiences, the numerous other uses of media add as a factor of its becoming very prevalent. Among these different uses are:

Media can be used in cases where the are only minor barriers; and this ensures substantial direct benefit

One can totally rely on the media as the primary tool for bringing about the desired behavior from the receivers or audiences particularly when the barriers to adopting the behavior are relatively minor and if there is a clear and substantial direct benefit to the person making the change (Seels, et. al., 1996).

Media can also be used in cases wherein there are minor barriers but there is also no direct benefit foreseen

If the barriers are relatively minor and there is no clear, direct benefit to the person making the change, or if the benefit is not large enough to be taken seriously, the media is still considered as one of a few key tools for bringing about the desired behavior to the audiences (Seels, et. al., 1996).

Media is essential in creating interest to program

If one would want to raise awareness or provide basic information in order to promote receptivity to the program, media could be the best tool to facilitate that (Seels, et. al., 1996). This is because all the forms of media – printed (such as the news papers or magazines), heard (such as the radio advertisements) and/or seen (such as TV programs and ads) could reach even all types of audiences – from whatever age bracket and social or economic status – from most parts of the world.

Media can draw people to the program

If one would want to attract people to an event, or notify them of an opportunity such as home visits or incentive programs, use the media (Seels, et. al., 1996). This is why various advertisements – commercial are government-initiated ads – are being shown in the mass media.

Media is also used for seasonal reminders

If people are generally committed to doing the activity but have not done it for a while, a seasonal reminder through the media may prove helpful. For example, seasonal reminders can be used to promote cleanliness of one’s community (Seels, et. al., 1996).

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Media is good in stimulating face-face conversations

A good media campaign can get people talking with one another about the issues and/or actions that the campaign is trying to promote (Seels, et. al., 1996). Through this, encouraging people to initiate an action or a response towards a certain economic or governmental issue can easily be done. This is also why surveys and people analyses are also very common in most researches because the mass media can provide the shortest bridge to access on the people.

Media shows participation and results

Once the program has gained participation and has started to show results, the media could provide excellent opportunities for providing group feedback, strengthening norm appeals and building motivation (Seels, et. al., 1996).

Media and its Impact to Young Audiences using Urie Bronfenbrenner Analysis

It is worth noting that any forms of media campaigns may affect any of each target audience, especially the age-targeted audiences. Like for instance the children (with age ranging from 3-5 years old). A big percentage of the viewers and/or consumers are the children. They are, at most times, the ones who are glued on the TV screens, on the computes and even on most magazines and news papers. Because of this, it can just be expected that the children will be receiving the extreme impact when it comes to controversial ads being shown, aired or printed. The children are in a very vulnerable position that their psychological, emotional, sociological and intellectual states are affected with the advertisements.

When considering the effect of media on children (or other age brackets for that matter), one must consider both the “immediate effect of making the audience want the advertised product and the cumulative effect of developing general habits” (Horgan, et. al., 2001). This only means that a media output may either have a long term or a short term effect to all its age-targeted audiences, particularly the children.

Impact to Health

Based on records, most of the media outputs nowadays particularly those which are targeted for children, are more on foods or food products. However, most of these food products being advertised are not good to health, or are unhealthy.

The number of ads directed at children has steadily increased over the last twenty years, and has roughly doubled since the 1970s. The number of ads aired for foods such as frozen dinners, which are typically high in fat and sodium, has more than doubled in the last twenty years.” (Horgan, et. al., 2001)

This is entirely related to Urie Bronfenbrenner Biological Systems Model, specifically under the microsystem aspect. Because of the increasing rates of unhealthy foods being advertised, the number of children with abnormal weight also increases. In fact, the rate of obesity in children increased up to three times during the same period when the numbers of unhealthy diet commercials were advertised. Because of this, it can be easily concluded that media ads such as this (i.e. unhealthy diet and lifestyle) can lead “lead otherwise healthy children to develop unhealthful eating habits and become overweight and already overweight children to further exacerbate their weight problem” (Horgan, et. al., 2001).

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Impact to Audiences’ Materialistic Nature

Under the Urie Bronfenbrenner Biological Systems Model, chronosystem aspect, the high rate of advertisements and an equally high amount of time spent by people – children or not – watching TVs, a study just disclosed that “commercials aimed at specific age groups also influence that particular age group to become more materialistic” (Horgan, et. al., 2001). Audiences who tend to absorb more advertisements would ask and/or beg for their parents to buy them the items being advertised. The higher the frequency of ads for a certain item (such as toy, clothes, etc) the more the audiences (like the teenagers, children and even adults) would want to have such item. More so, if the parents deny their kids for such request, they tend to become upset and would be angry to their parents. Hence, media products such as product endorsements and/or advertisements not only enhance the age-targeted audiences’ (like the children) tendency to become materialistic and it also changes the behavior thereby affecting even their values.

Impacts to Reinforcement of Racial Stereotypes

It was noted that the advertisements which are focused to children are proven to also have significant effect on the children’s racist tendencies.

“If children are repeatedly exposed to certain portrayals of an ethnic group, they may develop corresponding beliefs about the group” (Horgan, et. al., 2001)

Because there are very few advertisements that use the minority groups as the product endorsers, children are made to believe that these minority groups are not part of the “elites” and are just second-class citizen. This then cultivates the idea to children that minority groups do not deserve to receive the same attention that what other citizens are receiving, thus a clear indication of racism. This is clearly a reflection of the macrosystem aspect of the Urie Bronfenbrenner Biological Systems Model.


Thus, based on the reports above, viewing practices reflects not only individual preferences but also factors such as age-group viewing (i.e., the preferences of others in the viewing group), availability of shows and channels at the time the viewer is ready to watch, and the degree to which a viewer is aware of all his or her choices (Webster & Lichty, 1991). Moreover, the age of the targeted viewers is one of the most significant factor in analyzing the viewing practices as studying this specific category will provide not only the affects of the media but also the behavioral changes that media has caused on its particular age bracket.

Media and the UK Children

Research reveals that a host of individual, environmental, and sociological factors contribute to violent behavior among children and adolescents. Accessibility of guns is one part of the youth violence problem. Studies show that gang involvement, use of drugs, and social deviancy (Callahan & Rivara, 1992) are just a few variables that increase the likelihood of a young person carrying a firearm.

Another factor that the popular press (Murphy, 2002) often implicates as a contributor to violent behavior is the mass media. Actions of gun slinging perpetrators such as Leonardo DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries or Keanu Reeves in The Matrix have been incriminated in a few of the recent school shootings (Cowley et al., 1998). Children’s cartoons often feature aggressive perpetrators engaging in glamorized gunfire. For example, it is very common in Looney Tunes cartoons to have a hunting scene where Elmer Fudd attempts to shoot and kill Daffy Duck. Characters being shot at point blank range with large guns often appear to only temporarily have their beaks blown off or their faces blackened. Such fantastic depictions seem relatively benign in comparison to what is contained in violent shooter video games such as Duke Nukem or Wolfenstein.

What impact does exposure to such media depictions of guns have on the audience? For obvious ethical reasons, there is no experimental research on the impact of viewing mediated portrayals of firearms on gun-related behavior. Empirical evidence does show, however, that exposure to guns can influence aggressive responding. In one of the earliest weapons effect studies, Berkowitz and LePage (1967) exposed angered and non-angered subjects to guns or neutral objects in the natural environment and then gave them the opportunity to aggress. Angered subjects exposed to guns (i.e., rifle, revolver) gave significantly more electric shocks than did those angered subjects exposed to neutral objects.

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One commonality across these studies was that the manipulation involved subjects seeing actual firearms in their immediate surroundings. Mediated portrayals of guns also seem to evidence the weapons effect (Berkowitz and LePage, 1967). Leyens and Parke (1975) found that insulted subjects were significantly more aggressive after exposure to slides featuring a revolver than equally interesting slides depicting other objects (i.e., whistle, milk carton). It must be noted that some attempts to replicate the weapons effect have not been successful. Yet one meta-analysis of 13 studies revealed that the presence of weapons significantly enhances aggression among those low in evaluation apprehension or suspicion (Carlson, Marcus-Newhall, & Miller, 1990).

Using this view, it has been argued that viewing media content can “prime” thoughts in viewers with similar meaning (Jo & Berkowitz, 1994). Depictions of guns on screen may serve as a retrieval cue to activate semantically related concepts of aggression or hostility in memory, given the frequent juxtaposition of these two elements displayed in movies, television, and video games (Anderson, Benjamin, & Bartholow, 1998). In fact, recent experimental evidence reveals that exposure to weapon-related words and pictures primes aggression-related thoughts. Studies also have shown that activating hostile thoughts increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Thus, evidence suggests that hostile cognitions may be one mediator of the guns-aggression link (Anderson, Benjamin, & Bartholow, 1998).


Indeed, with the varied uses and forms of electronic media surrounding the youths and/or adolescents, it cannot be denied that its negative impacts to these young viewers’ mind may now be unpreventable. The only consolation that we can have is the fact the laws and regulations of the government, the teachings of our church and the continued guidance of the parents are the combined forces that will somehow help in minimizing the profound negative impacts of the said electronic media.


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