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Children today have extensive access to technologies such as video games, social media, the internet, cell phones, and televisions. All of these devices and technology have a big impact on how they evolve. Given that the term technology encompasses a wide range of independent goods, it is not surprising that numerous research reveal both optimism and anxiety about such dependence. Furthermore, because the discipline, like other natural sciences, is still in its early stages, the results may come as a surprise.Take, for example; some video games are designed to actively engage the mind can be tool s for intellectual development, some are mindless and in most case results in adverse outcomes among young developing minds (Bavelier, Green, & Dye, 2010). The same can be said about television. It is a widely known fact that this form of media can be both informative and positive, and at the sometimes can result in unwanted outcomes.
Research shows that the past thirty-five years have seen body imaging becoming a favorite topic in the contemporary society. In fact, approximately ninety percent of studies on body image were published in the years that followed 1980 (Voelker, Reel, & Greenleaf, 2015). The growth of interest in this field is consistent with the increasing public health concerns about physical inactivity, weight status, eating disorders, obesity, and the related spectrum of health outcomes. Body image has a multidimensional characteristic that covers how people perceive, thinks, acts and feels about their bodies. For adolescents, evidence shows that most cases of unhealthy body image result from physical inactivity and obesity. Most importantly, the manner in which a teenager perceives his or her body image has a development significance that is not a static personal characteristic instead of a dynamic factor of themselves that changes over their lifespan. Studies indicate that the adolescent stage represents a critical time for the development of a healthy body image based on the type and magnitude of the age-related transitions teenagers experience during this period (Voelker, Reel, & Greenleaf, 2015).
It is also during this time that teens experience a decline in family influence and increase in peer influence and other socialization factors typical of the transitional period to adulthood. These factors, including the media, have been known to hold significant socializing agents. As such, examining how adolescents assign their time spend for socialization through the media is a critical step towards understanding how these sources of information affect their progress, self -identification, and succeeding perception of their body image (Ferle, Edwards, & Lee, 2000). Teenagers' socialization depends on their ability to observe and learn from the media and allowing them to rely on the media for some of their satisfaction. In many instances, adolescents are perceived to use the media with the aim of sensation-seeking, identity construction, entertainment, youth and cultural identification and coping with the changes in their lives (Ferle, Edwards, & Lee, 2000). In addition to this, some studies indicate that they use the media as a tool to help them define the world around them. These pieces of evidence are proof the immense influence and importance of the media in the manner teenager develop.
However, based on the fact that adolescence represents a quite sensitive period in human life, and that it at this stage that people are most vulnerable to corruption, the media, especially the television, often result in a negative perception of self (Ferle, Edwards, & Lee, 2000). As mentioned earlier, teenagers tend to separate themselves from the influence of their parents gradually. In their place, they depend on their peers and much of the outside world in the development. Apart from the forces of their peers, television has been identified to a significant influencer of how teenagers understand the society, define the fundamental principles in their lives and develop a personal identity. This could be both positive and negative depending on what they are watching and how they interpret and apply what goes on on the screen in their lives.
The media is quite an effective way of creating and communicating social values about what the society perceives of physical appearance. However, it is indispensable to understand that the cultural messages about appearance are not only a significant sample of people's opinions about repulsiveness and attractiveness but also gender-based expectations. Television considerably contributes to the acceptance and adaptation of standard social-cultural characteristics of attractions and physical appearance (Dinc & Alisinanoglu, 2010). In addition to this, it acts a role model by insisting on certain body types while diminishing others. The source of information and entertainment reflects current social norms. Various researchers have indicated that both boys and girls tend to have adverse emotional reactions after watching the idealized images. In fact, the studies suggest that these responses and influences are not limited to teenagers only but also affect both males and females under the age of forty (Dinc & Alisinanoglu, 2010).
This effect is often referred to as the "teen mom effect" (Ferle, Edwards, & Lee, 2000). The term refers to how teenagers look up to television personalities presented in movies, shows, and advertisements as their role models. Statistics provided by the Center for New American Dream, teenagers and children are exposed to approximately twenty-five thousand ads every year. Similarly, organizations spend almost seventeen billion dollars each year on marketing their products to this population (Javellana, 2014). A critical factor that proves the extent of such influence on the manner teenagers perceive their body image is how young girls compare themselves to the glamorous girls featured in movies advertisements. In a study focused on identifying the most influential factors in the way girls see themselves, fifteen-year-olds indicated that the media is responsible for most cases of body dissatisfaction (Javellana, 2014). The girls confirmed that they often compare themselves with television personalities which initiate the adoption of eating habits as portrayed in this media.
A study was conducted in five hundred and forty-eight middle school and girls' high schools. The results showed that fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they were not pleased with their body images. The interesting fact was that the study found that only twenty-nine of the respondents were over-weight but up to sixty-six percent of the girls indicated that they wanted to lose weight (Javellana, 2014). The study also indicated that sixty-nine percent of the girls who participated in the research affirmed that their views on the body images were largely influenced by the media which is responsible for identifying the "perfect" female body. However, although this influence is often recognized among girls, studies have shown that television and media can also impact boys' perception of themselves. According to Javellana 2014, the statistics among male teenagers is quite concerning. The common belief is that the last twenty-five years has seen a significant increase in the body dissatisfaction among men with the figures showing that the number increased by thirty percent from fifteen percent. Further insight on the subject suggests that seventeen percent of men are dieting are any given time with ten percent of all the people suffering from anorexia being of the male gender. Furthermore, four percent of men are believed to purge after every meal, three percent of them beinge eat, and approximately three percent of teenage boys take muscle enhancing medications with the aim of achieving the perfect body image (Javellana, 2014).
With these trends and statistics, it is never too early for parents, teachers, health practitioners, and other related stakeholders to step in before the problem becomes irreversible. Although research on this subject substantially trails behind the technology, parents and physicians have resources that could help their intervention approaches. On their part, medical professionals should use the same technique (televisions) to preach the gospel of healthy leaving. They need to counter the effects of advertisements, and other TV shows about the perfect body image or provides a more robust way of achieving these standards. On the other hand, parents have the responsibility of monitoring and controlling what the children are watching although with the advent of new technologies this is getting increasingly difficult. According to Gruber and Grube 2000, there is limited information concerning the amount of time children and teenagers should spend watching television. The two suggest that the only available barometer for how much time they should pent on not only this form of media but also the various other readily available to them is it should be less than the time spent by the adults. Apart from this, it is paramount for parents to build or maintain trusting relationships with their children to keep their influence in the manner they develop both physically and psychologically. They should impart the ideals of self-acceptance instead of looking up to television personalities who often represent a limited societal perception of boy image.
In conclusion, teenagers are at a critical stage in their lives where they are not only expected to place the foundational bocks for their future but also remain in touch with the contemporary trends in the society. With the decline of parental influence and the incline of peer and media influence in the manner they understand the world, teens are at a high risk of being ill-advised and negatively affected by what they see and hear. Studies have indicated that television and other forms of media are huge influencers of the manner teenagers perceive themselves with companies spending significant amounts of money to advertise to the vulnerable population. As such, many of these individuals are at a high risk of forming negative perceptions about their body image especially when they do not meet the standards as expressed in the media.
Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., & Dye, M. W. G. (2010). Children, wired - for better and for worse. Neuron, 67(5), 692-701. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035
Ferle, C., Edwards, S., & Lee, W. (2000). Teens' use of traditional media and the internet. Journal of Advertising Research, 10022(212), 751-5656.
Gruber, E., & Grube, J. W. (2000). Adolescent sexuality and the media: a review of current knowledge and implications. Western Journal of Medicine, 172(3), 210-214.
Javellana, G. M. (2014). Influence of media on body image satisfaction among adolescents. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Arts and Sciences, 1(1), 95-101.
Voelker, D. K., Reel, J. J., & Greenleaf, C. (2015). Weight status and body image perceptions in adolescents: current perspectives. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 6, 149-158. http://doi.org/10.2147/AHMT.S68344
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