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.
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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.
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.
For decades, televisions have been referred to as “boob tubes”. The “tube” side of the slang term referred to the huge cathode-ray tubes that powered the viewing screen in the Stone Age of television. This basic belief persists, that time spent on entertainment media, particularly visual media is associated with reduced intelligence or academic performance. On the other hand, some investigators are examining whether newer forms of media can be used to promote learning. This chapter examines these concerns and beliefs and elucidates to what degree consuming entertainment media influences our academic achievement. Children who had watched fast-paced cartoon had reduced executive functioning compared to an educational show, or to perform a controlled drawing task. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a host of policy statements on media issues. These have ranged from media violence to “Facebook Depression”, the belief that time spent on social media causes depression.
This book concerns itself with the research on how media influences people, how people influence media, and how society even influences the way we try to answer questions about how media influences people. The history of media and society has often involved considerable push and pull between social forces advocating greater liberalization or restriction of media content. After a brief introduction about society and media through history, the book discusses some of the basic theoretical approaches used in media research such as the uses and gratifications theory (UGT), self-determination theory (SDT), and catalyst model. This is followed by a presentation on 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. The impact of televisions, or boob tubes as they were called earlier, on academic achievement is the next topic of discussion. This is followed by a chapter covering media addiction. Regarding television, relatively little attention has been paid to the concept of television addiction despite the heavy viewing habits of the average individual. Book bannings and burnings have long been part of authoritarian regimes, whether aristocratic, fascist, or communist. Book bannings are intended to prevent others from reading a book. The book also discusses many other important topics such as body dissastisfaction, teen sexual behavior, racial relations, criminal news, television/movie/video game violence, and pornography. As with most issues with media psychology, the travails of social media involve separating the hype from the truth.
Book bannings and burnings have long been part of authoritarian regimes, whether aristocratic, fascist, or communist. During the 20th century many books, such as Tropic of Cancer, were banned in the United States because of their perceived “obscene” sexual material. Book bannings are intended to prevent others from reading a book. In recent memory, probably few books have come to epitomize the debates on banned books more than the Harry Potter series, written by J. K. Rowling. Books that are challenged are very often books that are targeted toward youth, yet still contain edgy content such as sexuality, violence, occult themes, profanity and drug references. The relative dearth of research on books is probably the result of several factors. Newer media such as video games, social media, and old standbys such as movies and television, tend to get most of the focus.
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.
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.
Media has to sell, and in order to sell it has to be appealing. This basic tenet is true for fictional media, news media, advertising media, and online media. This chapter suggests that the impact of media on body image and body dissatisfaction is probably the second-most controversial area in media psychology. The notion that media could have some kind of impact on body dissatisfaction is probably fairly intuitive for many readers. Like many media-effects approaches, arguments for media effects on body dissatisfaction are still often presented as hypodermic-needle approaches, albeit with some nuances. Many scholars view media effects in this realm through the lens of social comparison theory. Thin-ideal internalization focuses on the thinness of models on television and in magazines. Most of the research on body dissatisfaction has focused on women, probably because eating disorders tend to be far more prevalent in women.
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.