Entertainment has always been a crucial part of American culture. The Kermit puppet is in a Smithsonian Institute – along with Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt. Most people agree that American lifestyles are presented in many media forms such as TV, music, movies and magazines.
But some believe that today’s media going in direction and reflecting less than ideal American ideals. The question that is fast becoming one of the largest concerns in America is this: do the gruesome violence and sex scenes in American media negatively impact the minds and behavior of young people?
Messages in music?
The radio, most people fear, is fast becoming dominated by songs that contain sexual and violent content. “I’m not a fan of rap; there is too much violence and sexuality toward women in it. I haven’t heard a rap song with a good message yet,” said Kathleen Neiheisel, mother of sophomore Cameron Neiheisel..
Sophomore Julia Slusher has similar thoughts. “I think that most popular artists these days have sexual or drug based songs that are sending the wrong messages to teens,” she said.
But many other people think it is less black and white than that. Junior Kati Molnar thinks that it depends on what type of music you are listening to. “I believe that rap music generally depicts a lot of sexual and drug references that could give teens the wrong message,” she said. “On the other hand, I believe that indie-rock bands have a more meaningful and thoughtful side to their songs,”
Violence on the big screen
Many different genres of movies, but two of the most popular types among teens are horror and action movies. Whether it is a new James Bond movie, a massacre style horror movie, or even a newly released action-thriller such as The Town, there is violence throughout all of them.
Sophomore Cameron Neiheisel thinks that there is a grey area of how much violence should or shouldn’t be allowed to occur during a movie. “The producers that are making movies need to distinguish what type of material would be acceptable for their target audience,” said Cameron Neiheisel.
Fairmont’s Psychologist Karen Johnson believes it’s important to look at the quantity of violent movies a person watches. “The amount of movies teens should watch that are violent depends on the students coping skills. Everyone likes to watch movies like this and some movies help us conquer certain fears,” said Johnson. “But when teens become obsessed with these types of movies it can negatively affect the student’s moral development.”
Terror and trauma on TV
Violence in the entertainment industry isn’t limited to radio and movies, however. Television shows have jumped on the bandwagon too. Programs such as Jersey Shore, Law and Order SVU, and CSI all portray gruesome scenes, sexuality, or other forms of violence to some degree.
Sophomore Damian Hughes doesn’t mind the violent trends appearing on TV lately. “The gruesome scenes in Law and Order and CSI add to the show. They can show the reality of events similar to that.”
But unlike Hughes, not everyone believes that these violent scenes and real life depictions have no effect on teenagers.
Senior Nick Braun is one of these people. He likes to watch Jersey Shore but thinks that it does affect some teenagers negatively. “I watch Jersey Shore because it’s funny to see how stupid the people are and watch their fights with one another,” said Braun. “But, I think it is a bad influence on the teens that set these kinds of people as their role models. Getting drunk, fighting with everyone, and sleeping around with anything that moves isn’t a very good way to go through life.”
The developing teen brain
Teens are susceptible to the influence of the media because they sometimes follow the trends they see there. These can vary from sexual activities at a young age, violence from action shows, or body image and dieting habits from seeing how celebrities look.
Johnson says it’s not really even teens’ fault that they’re so susceptible. “The brain isn’t fully formed until age 25 and during this period it is geared a lot towards interests it develops,” she said. “The brain can become too attached to these interests, and they become obsessions.”
Molnar feels the media definitely can have a negative effect on teen behavior. “I think that too much media exposure can lead to inappropriate drug use, having sex at a young age and unnecessary violence in teens,” she said.
Although opinions abound, there is no clear sense of how much the media is effecting the teenage population. Savannah Renshaw, a sophomore, agrees that it’s difficult to know what’s too violent and too sexual. “In the last generation society has come to accept more than it used to,” said Renshaw. “The most important question is where do we draw the line?”