15.7 Media: Influences on Teens
Media is another agent of socialization that influences our political views; our tastes in popular culture; our views of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community; and many other beliefs and practices. In an ongoing controversy, the media is often blamed for youth violence and many other of society’s ills. The average child sees thousands of acts of violence on television and in the movies before reaching young adulthood. Rap lyrics often seemingly extol ugly violence, including violence against women. Commercials can greatly influence our choice of soda, shoes, and countless other products. The mass media may also reinforce racial and gender stereotypes, including the belief that women are sex objects and suitable targets of male violence. In the General Social Survey (GSS), about 28% of respondents said that they watch four or more hours of television every day, while another 46% watch 2-3 hours daily (see “Average Number of Hours of Television Watched Daily”). The media certainly are an important source of socialization that was unimaginable a half-century ago.
As the media socializes children, adolescents, and even adults, a key question is the extent to which media violence causes violence in our society. Studies consistently uncover a strong correlation between watching violent television shows and movies and committing violence. However, this does not necessarily mean that watching the violence actually causes violent behavior: perhaps people watch violence because they are already interested in it and perhaps even committing it. Scholars continue to debate the effect of media violence on youth violence. In a free society, this question is especially important, as the belief in this effect has prompted calls for monitoring the media and the banning of certain acts of violence. Civil libertarians argue that such calls smack of censorship that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, while others argue that they fall within the First Amendment and would make for a safer society. Certainly the concern and debate over mass media violence will continue for years to come.684
Sociology: Brief Edition – Agents of Socialization by Steven E. Barkan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0↩︎