Teens and the Media One Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

The extreme power of this new cultural tool is the very nature -- it depends on nothing but an electronic connection. it, like many things in the modern world, is instantaneous, satisfying the 21st century need to have both dependence and independence based on our own decision or whim. Therein lies the confusion for many -- just how real is an electronic friendship that can exist without really "knowing" the person physically? How robust are virtual relationships except in the mind of those participating? and, how do we know with whom we are actually chatting or forming a bond -- could the mother of three living in Scotland be something quite different on the Internet? and, specifically, what impact might these social networks from a psychological perspective? (Gross, 2004).

Besides community, technology has changed entertainment for teens. Violence in the entertainment genre is not something that is new to the 20th century. If we think back on history, examples are rife regarding different societies and their use of violence, all which were available for children. However, over the past century or so, the entire culture of media has changed so dramatically that heavier exposure to violence is available to teens and children on a regular and daily basis (Bushman and Anderson, 2001). There is almost an urban myth, though, that blames the corruption of youth in each succeeding generation with violence in mass media -- from the dime novels of the early 20th century to the 1930s Jimmy Cagney Gangster Films, to the 1950s horror/crime genre, and even into the repost war and ultra-realism movies since (Springhall, 1999).

Theoretical Assumptions

Thus, based on the literature, it appears that teens today face cognitive dissonance and a certain level of desensitization in both a psychological and sociological paradigm due to the impact of media violence and emotional separation from intensive social media focus. From a psychological perspective, particularly when dealing with younger people, there are two major theories that impact the manner in which Cyberspace and Social Networking impact adolescent society: functionalism and social/symbolic interaction. The term functionalism in psychology refers to a mode of thinking that considers mental life and behavior more in terms of the manner in which it adapts to the individual's environment. It is the basis, in many ways, for developing psychological theories that are not as easily testable within the controlled experiment model. It is the social structure of the organization, or the way society is organized that is more important than the individual. For this theory, individuals are born into society, then become products of the social influences that surround them as soon as they are properly socialized by family, education, media and religion (culture) (Miller, F., et.al., 2009). Social networks, then, play the role of an extended society within this view. The role of the network is to create an alternative for society, and the individual to participate and allow that institute to grow as a system. Thus, as social networks grow and adapt, individuals evolve and adapt with them.

Symbolic interaction refers to the manner in which communication, interpretation and adjustment of messages occur between individuals, groups, and then society. This interaction refers to both verbal and nonverbal signals that are delivered and the expectations of how those listening and/or participating, will react. In a sense, it is like a continually evolving game of charades -- conversation is communication moving from message to message, from sender to receiver, and even to those who are passively participating. For instance, reality is a social interaction and development of that interaction between others. Physical reality does exist for the individual, and that forms reality for them. Individuals do not then respond to reality, but to their own social understanding of reality -- a physical reality, and social reality, and then a uniquely individualized reality. All realities are created through social interaction, and thus morph into one another in an ongoing manner (Herman-Kinney and Reynolds, 2003).

Using symbolic interaction theory on social networks is an interesting premise because of the nature of reality. For the individual, the reality of their world is structured and set -- but when they log into a social network, that reality may change. They can essentially be whomever they want, and the conversations, banter, and interaction may change depending on their mood and spirit (e.g. one day a 45-year-old surgeon, the next a 25-year-old new mother, etc.). People can have multiple conversations as multiple people in real time as well; a graduate student from India to one friend and an airline attendant for British Airways for another. In addition, while social networking provides connection and interaction, it is far easier to walk away from a computer conversation or social meeting than it is a real person. The danger, for social interactionism and social networks, is that the physical reality will fade away and individuals will become more a part of their artificial realities, particularly for teens who are psychologically vulnerable anyway (Singer, 2002).

Traditionally, sociologists have defined community with a geographic bent -- more out of necessity than other factors. Individuals grew up in areas, sometimes isolated, but had the focus of their formative years based on the traditions, morals, and cultural values of the area they lived. Virtual communities, however, are not at all geographically dependent, nor are they such that they encompass the entire chronology of one's life from birth to death. if, however, one broadens the definition of community to one in which boundaries exist by members of that community and belonging is based on other criteria, then virtual communities are indeed a real and viable manner of linking like-minded individuals for an exchange of information and mutual satisfaction (Anderson, 1999). The robustness and veracity of these groups is not the point. Instead, virtual communities that are used for a number of social and professional purposes form between individuals with sufficient commonalities of feeling and interest to enhance and hold the communication during the chat or email conversation, but may remain relative strangers at most other times. Communication through virtual communities in email and text tend to change the meaning of words, particularly with young people, to the point that the way of looking at the world (internal and external) is changed. Psychologists worry that after many years of exposure to social networks, if newer generations will become quite different humans. This could empower, or it could regress the individual's experience (Rheingold, 2000).

In terms of media, most sociologists and psychologists agree that television and the resultant video gaming industry is a school of violence. Youth psychiatrists argue that crime programs have very damaging effects on youth. Their mind is colored by so much violence like killing, shooting, cheating, raping, etc., that they grow up without understanding and misunderstanding what is wrong and what is right. Clearly, what is shown on television and gaming and what is reality are different -- when a young person sees someone being killed in a movie, there are typically no aftereffects, but when seen from the news; a fire, scenes of war, plane crash, etc., the images transcend and become part of reality (Potera). Modes of cause and effect between media consumption and behavior however, are more difficult to prove. Television and video images, especially are encoded in the cognitive maps of viewers, and continued and regularly viewing helps to maintain aggressive ideas, thoughts and behaviors (Wartella and Jennings, 2002).

Young people, who naturally have a limited knowledge about a complex society are curious, and may misinterpret the images seen on the media. They also tend to imitate behaviors they see on the media, acting out scenes, etc., whether as play in children or as patterns of behavior as adolescents. Others move into a mode in which certain images remain in their memory, but are extrapolated into normal household events (e.g. The booting of a computer or the LED lights on appliances signal a robot, alien, or transformer in the room). Because of this vast exposure -- more time watching media than any other activity, the types of at risk behaviors and frightful images to which youth are exposed have increased (Gross; Funk, et.al. 2003). It is not just the television and movies, though that exposes children to violence. The most recent type of media violence that is not as monitored as television or motion pictures is the violent video game genre. Indeed, there is sufficient research to conclude that violent video game exposure can cause increases in aggressive behavior and that repeated exposure to violent video games has been linked to "acting out" behaviors that are increasingly violent (Anderson & Dill, 2000).

Everyone is an individual; therefore they have quite different reactions to media violence, depending on temperament, age, maturity level, and feelings of safety and security within the family or social structure. Some signs of internalizing the trauma are similar to that when a young person has been physically or psychologically abused: sleeping issues, regressive behavior, changes in typical behavior,…

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Anderson-Butcher, D., et.al. (2010). Adolescent Weblog Use: Risky or Protective. Journal of Child and Adolescent Social Work, 27(2), 63-77.

Anderson, B. (1999). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso Publications.

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