As with most issues with media psychology, the travails of social media involve separating the hype from the truth. One of the curious things about social media is that, unlike some other previous forms of feared media such as rock music, rap, comic books, or video games, social media has been relatively effectively embraced even by older generations. This chapter discusses two corollaries regarding the duration and intensity of moral panics surrounding new technology and media. First, the degree and intensity of moral panics can be predicted by the degree to which they tap into existing moral concerns, such as sex, violence, or privacy. Second, the degree and intensity of moral panics are mitigated by the extent to which older adults embrace the new technology. As with many issues of digital privacy, it is one social media and Internet users will wish to consider carefully before they leap.
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In the United States the issue of teen sexuality is an issue with significant moral valence. This is not to say that there are no legitimate public health concerns regarding teen sexuality. Far from it; sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unexpected pregnancies are issues of considerable import. This chapter explains about mainstream media, whether television, music, music videos, books, and so on, that contain sexual themes. Perhaps not surprisingly, teens and their parents seem to differ with respect to their perceptions of media influences on sexual behavior. Teens generally do not view media as a primary source of information regarding their sexuality. By contrast, parents do worry about media influences on their children. As with most areas of media psychology, results linking sexy media to sexual behavior are inconsistent, and, where they do exist, there is reason to believe they may be due to other variables or simple mischievous responding.
This chapter focuses on ultraviolent games such as Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA). GTA is a violent shooter game that has gained notoriety for its sandbox-style allowance for players to engage in criminal actions, such as beating prostitutes or shooting police officers. In recent years, more research evidence has come to light suggesting that video game violence does not have a substantial influence on aggression or prosocial behavior or youth violence. A recent meta-analysis of studies of youth and video games suggested that video game influence on youth mental health was minimal, with published studies subject to publication bias. Elderly adults unfamiliar with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings were most prone to worrying about video games.
This chapter offers Madeleine McCann case example to demonstrates some of the risks of news media involvement in criminal cases. This case ultimately devolved from a cooperative investigation into considerable acrimony, finger pointing, criticism, and controversy among the family, Portuguese police, British police, and news media. The chapter discusses how do news media come to highlight certain stories but not others, to what extent do news media report information inaccurately or accurately, and what effect do news media reports have on the beliefs of viewers. It concentrates particularly on the way news media represent crime. On the issue of crime, news media often focus on “sensational” crime, particularly violent, shocking crimes, with a preference for bizarre crimes. Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS) taps into issues related to race, gender, social class, and society values.
Our personal and societal interaction with media is complex and often infused with great controversy. Media psychology has a unique challenge. The history of media and society has often involved considerable push and pull between social forces advocating greater liberalization or restriction of media content. Modern concerns about media content are nothing new. No one really knows when Homo sapiens began to attempt to entertain each other through some form of early media. The oldest forms of artistic expression for which we do have records are cave paintings. The rise of mass media as we know it today was driven by Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type printing press in 1450. Media regulation and censorship became more than a moral issue, but rather a public health crisis allegedly on par with smoking and lung cancer. With television, the potential for visual mass media to reach audiences increased considerably.
Pornography has been an incredibly complex part of the social fabric across history. Naturally, our concepts of pornography are rooted within our own culture and perceptions of sexuality. Pornography involving children, since children are obviously harmed in the making of such material, is clearly obscene. Interest in sex, nudity, and viewing people having sex is not remotely new or a product of the modern age. One well-known example from the otherwise conservative Hindu culture is the Kama Sutra. Kama Sutrais an Indian tome famous for its sexually explicit content. Not surprisingly, photography and, later, moving pictures expanded the availability of pornography. Until the advent of social media, pornography consumption quickly became the most popular activity on the Internet. Much of the debate over pornography’s effects concerns how pornography may influence men’s attitudes toward women, possibly resulting in increased violence toward women.
Advertisements differ from fictional media in that they are purposely intended to change behavior. This chapter shows how influential are advertisements on our behavior, what “tricks” do advertisers use to influence behavior, and how do the influences of advertisements compare to fictional media. Advertising is a subset of marketing. Advertisements are designed to make the public aware of a product, as well as to provide a pitch for why that particular product is superior to its competitors. False advertisements tried to entice consumers with lofty but untrue claims of benefits and to hide weaknesses or financial liabilities with their products. One form of advertising that has been controversial is product placement. One other area that is controversial is advertisement directed at children. Children are thought of as being particularly vulnerable given that they are less adept than adults at reality testing.
Racial and ethnic minorities may be represented only seldom in mainstream media, and when they are represented, they may be portrayed along narrow lines that reflect the stereotypes and prejudices of the dominant group. Stereotypes are used to prejudge members of that group rather than to evaluate them on their individual characteristics. Prejudice may often be used to promote a hostile social agenda such as racism, sexism, or religious bigotry. Mass media has incentives to cater most to the dominant and most lucrative group of individuals within a culture. Few issues in media portrayals of ethnic minorities have been as controversial as the portrayal of African Americans. Media tends to reflect the interests of dominant cultural units. Discussions of race and ethnicity and social justice are likely to change both the dominant culture’s views and media portrayals of race.
This chapter concerns the concept of media addiction, how prevalent it is, and the controversies surrounding it. Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Impairment of functioning in other realms is key to addiction along with dysfunction in behavioral regulation. One tactic a lot of folks have used is to migrate symptoms of gambling addiction to media use. Regarding television, relatively little attention has been paid to the concept of television addiction despite the heavy viewing habits of the average individual. Further, unlike video game use, television use was quickly adopted by older generations.
Theories in science are used to organize existing data and provide hypotheses or routes for new data collection. Much of the theoretical struggle has been between what is sometimes called the limited-effects theory of media effects and the hypodermic needle model. There are some theories, such as Moral Panic Theory, which do not necessarily fit well into this basic dichotomy. This chapter discusses some of the basic theoretical approaches as well as the methodologies used in media research. The hypodermic needle approaches have branched out a bit into specific theories for individual topic areas including media violence, body dissatisfaction and cultivation theory or hypothesis. The limited-effects theories include uses and gratifications theory (UGT), self-determination theory (SDT), and catalyst model. Moral Panic Theory suggests that society often overreacts to new media, proclaiming significant but often nonexistent public health crises.