Teen’s sexual health is an important issue that teens are faced with today, and when coming from the pressure, Social media brings along both benefits and risks. Research has been done to prove that exposure to content in magazines, television, movies, and music used by early adolescents predicts teen’s sexual behavior. By surveys being done, this leads these researchers to conclude that social media does in fact increase teens to engage in sexual activity. (Brown, Landin L'Engle, and et al 1018 -1027). “Earlier maturing girls reported more interest than later maturing girls in seeing sexual content in movies, television, and magazines, and in listening to sexual content in music, regardless of age or race. Earlier maturing girls were also more likely to be listening to music and reading magazines with sexual content, more likely to see R-rated movies, and to interpret the messages they saw in the media as approving of teens having sexual intercourse.” (Brown, Tucker Halpern, and Landin L'Engle 420-427) Since girls nowadays are starting puberty sooner in their lives then in history, media is serving as a sexual super peer to these early maturing girls. Media’s lack of expressing the healthy sexual messages and no sexually responsible models just a relatively consistent set of sexual and relationship norms results in girl’s fascination of Sexual media and activity (Brown, Tucker Halpern, and Landin L'Engle 420-427) (Brown, Landin L'Engle, and et al 1018 -1027).
To view this in a different way, there are a few benefits that come along with having sexual media by preventing some teens in engaging in sexual activity because of the results that scare some teens. Like seen on 16 and pregnant, produced by MTV, that many teens and young girls watch; there is a huge risk of getting pregnant even if you use condoms or birth control. Also contributing to that fact is anyone can get pregnant the very first time of having sexual intercourse. Also but rarely promoted, taught in sexual education, is the chance of getting a sexual transmitted infection (STI). Teens see that getting a STI is at such a high risk that it is also scaring some teens away from having sexual intercourse. Seeing condom and birth control failure in media results in some teens not “doing it”, even when being promoted in all types of media that sex is the best thing for relationships to “show that you really love someone” (Collins, Elliote, Berry, Kanouse, and Hunter 1115 -1121). Viewing and hearing minimal and limited sexual media along with parental guidance is shown to improve the way teens express their sexual knowledge. (Collins, Elliote, Berry, Kanouse, and Hunter 1115 -1121)
Mental health risks are a concern for our youth today through all of the social media that is out there, especially with social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter but also pressure coming from owning a smart phone. In the past it has been very easy to dismiss pre-teens and teens as too young to experience mental health issues, but since today more and more younger aged kids are joining these websites “being too young” could not be further from the truth. It is proven that these websites are a host of psychological disorders. These teens on the websites find that there once personal and private life is now a new found freedom to publish this information to the public. In result, some children with these types of encounters and online popularity contests can lead to low self-esteem, peer pressure and can cause or worsen anxiety or depression ("Online Connections: Middle School Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media" ). “About 2.5 percent of children in the U.S. suffer from depression and according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement, about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 caused by social media pressures” ("Online Connections: Middle School Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media"). Fortunately, with early diagnosis, medication, psychotherapy, or combined treatment, most youth with depression can be effectively treated. Parents, teachers, and school counselors can also help middle school students navigate appropriate social media use and generate awareness of the potential mental health effects. Social media can also be accessed by smart phones, and all the above symptoms can also be reached by access to any type of cell phones. More teens everyday are getting cell phones “According to a recent poll… Seventy-five percent of teenagers own cell phones--25 percent use them for social media, 54 percent use them for texting, and 24 percent use them for instant messaging. Social media has radically changed the childhood experience for many tweens, and the effects can be both positive and negative” ("Online Connections: Middle School Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media"). With teens being younger and getting cell phones it exposes them earlier in life to stress or depression. When parents think that it is just temporary phase being in the teenage years as they are, but it is actually mood swings brought on by stress and depression. Teens are tied to their phones, and always around them especially if they are accessing social networks on them. One upsetting or happy phone call, text, instant message, status, or tweet can change a teen’s mood in the blink of an eye. Some say that whatever is going on in the social media can determine anyone’s mood, just think how teens try to cope with it not yet quite knowing how to problem solve. In teens, having easy influenced fluctuating moods is not healthy and can cause some to “problem solve” their own way by committing suicide in result of social media ("Online Connections: Middle School Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media" ).
On the contrary of negative effects, come the positive ones and social media use is associated with many benefits for adolescent health and development. Most teens say they do not feel the pressure of social media networks and are just on them to extend their friendships. One major benefit of this is that social networking can help shy teens become more comfortable and outgoing. It is also known that Social media can provide a supportive environment to explore romance, friendship, and social status, while also providing teens an opportunity to share and discuss their taste in music, knowledge of television and movies, online videos/games, and other aspects of teen culture. Teens also look to social networks as a key source of information and advice. In a critical developmental period with 57% of teen social networkers saying they look to their online social network for advice (Turgeon ). Looking through the eyes of the creators of Social networking sites, their sites “provide a way for teens to experience connectedness and opportunities to learn from each other” (Turgeon ). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, social media sites can help develop a child’s communication, social interaction, sense of community and technical skills ("Online Connections: Middle School Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media" ). For teens, social networking is much like "training wheels for life,"( Larry D. Rosen).
Teens that watch television and read magazines are more likely to have a physical health problem ranging from anorexia to obesity. The teens in our young aged America are struggling to keep up with looking a certain way to be able to be accepted into society. The way the media and television make it seem is that if the tiniest thing is wrong with you, you are going to get made fun of, have no friends, and you are just considered flat out ugly! To be “normal” per say you have to look and be perfect just their idols. But since close to all teenage girls are not a size 0-2, do not have flawless skin, long hair, or tan skin they think something is wrong with them. They try to fix these problems by either and eating disorder or by hurting themselves because they think that they are not good enough. Media has put so much emphasis on physical appearance, so girls look to TV, movies, and magazines for the gauge of what they should look like or what is ideal in physical features. "Adolescents with negative body image concerns are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal than those without intense dissatisfaction over their appearance, even when compared to adolescents with other psychiatric illnesses, according to a new study by researchers at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital and Brown Medical School" (Cassidella). That shows how deep the issue of negative body image really is and how it can affect mental and emotional health. On the physical side of the matter, there are girls who feel such pressure that they engage in starving themselves (anorexia nervosa) or bingeing and purging (bulimia) to obtain some real or imagined ideal look. In other teens it has a totally opposite effect on them. In other pre-teens and adolescents they are addicted to watching TV; when teens get addicted to TV they preform no physical activity and since there is nothing else to while watching TV, they eat (Diaz, Evans, and Gallagher ).
From the data presented in my lit review, my readers can easily see that teens are at a higher risk for different health issues because of harmful exposure to social media. There have been many cases of suicide due to harmful exposure to Social media; one story reports a 14-year-old freshman, Jamey Rodemeyer, from a little high school just outside Buffalo called Williamsville North High School. According to his parents, Jamey was bullied through middle school too. He had told family and friends that he had endured hateful comments in school and online, mostly related to his sexual orientation. For this reason, Jamey took his own life and was then found dead on a Sunday morning in his yard (Donaldson James). Social media is getting out of control and has done nothing but negatively impacted teens’ health by promoting sexual activity, causing depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and by promoting negative body image to increase chance of eating disorders or suicide.
As we all know, teens are way too young to be having sex. By having social media exploding sexual activity is not contributing to the cause of prevention of sexual activity in our youth today. Today, when teens are exposed to this, it is actually promoting sex, sometimes even sex with multiple partners at this young age. Teens that see and hear a lot about sex in the media are more than twice as likely to have early sexual intercourse as those who are rarely exposed to sexual content(1). Regardless to race or gender, teens that are exposed to this engage in what they see because of their curiosity of what is so great about it. “A new study shows that 12- to 14-year-olds exposed to the most sexual content in movies, music, magazines, and on television were 2.2 times more likely to have had sexual intercourse when re-interviewed two years later than their peers who had a lighter sexual media diet” (Warner ). Being a teen, as I am, I have witnessed this first hand growing up with the class that I have teens in my class that engaged in sexual activity happened in about the 9th or 10th grade being 15 to 16 years of age but now while we sit back and hear the news that travels around the school we hear of lower classman even in 7th grade having sex that means that they were 12 or 13. Seeing this is just plain wrong: teens are not ready to have sex and are paying with it in pregnancies and STI’s. As the age that pre-teen and adolescents engage in sexual activity gets lower it is obvious that the media is to blame since all you see on TV is sex or physical attraction to opposite sex it is believed to endorse sexual drive for our youth. When media is asked why they add scenes regarding to sexual activity in teenage shows or movies they respond by simply saying “we are promoting healthy sex by showing and proving the risks of having sex” (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson 800 -804). But we ask our self’s the question of how is this going to prevent teens from having sex? In some cases it may be promoting safe sex but seeing sex sparks an interest to it instead of not being exposed to it at all. It makes them more likely to want to do it.
On the counter argument of that, some might say that this is the completely wrong way to look at it because they say when teens see sexual relations and the risks that come along with it in the four main flashes of media (magazines, commercials, movies, and internet) they might be hesitant when it comes to their sex life. Since they know all the reasons how it can mess up their life if something were to go wrong such as getting pregnant or catching an STI (Warner ). Professionals also say that by exploding sexual content in the big four media, information about their health concerns easily and anonymously Web sites through which they can develop supportive networks of people with similar conditions. One might say that by seeing the down sides of sex it will in fact make teens think of consequences of having sexual intercourse at such a young age and that is the only reason that it is exploded and emphasized so much. To those teens that have absolutely have no education about what to do when faced with a serious situation, they can join social networking groups and ask anonyms questions to many hotlines, emails, or texts about what to do (Warner ).
Social media has also been known to cause depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem in teens and this is another reason that media is not healthy for pre-teens and adolescents. Media causes depression by constantly being in contact with sexual media because it can drastically change a teens’ mood. Constant fluctuation of a teens’ mood is not healthy and can cause depression. Certain networking sites, such as Facebook, can cause depression. “Facebook depression” is a real and serious disorder. Facebook depression is caused by seeing friends’ statuses, feedback, successes, and number of friends. Events or feelings that were once private experiences are now public and teens react to this in different ways depression being one and anxiety being another. Anxiety is a huge part of our American youth; Peer pressure from social media will cause anxiety or worsen it in most teens ("Procon"). Media also causes cases of low self-esteem, this had been an ongoing issue. Teenagers are targeted on looks, size, or popularity; any issue that they may be struggling with is fair game for the media. Since this is the case it is easy for the media to cause low self-esteem in teenagers if they do not look a certain way, are not a certain size, not popular, or do not own as much as others own. The people in media spend millions on tracking down what seem to be peoples’ insecurities. Once this information is in their hands they then turn our insecurities around on us to make sales. Esteem is the value that we place in something, and self-esteem, the value we place in our self. Esteem is usually measured by how much we think we are desirable to other people. We look how characteristics that we have measure up against how they are accepted and help us to be accepted socially, and that is proven why media causes low self-esteem. All teens want to do is “fit in” so when it comes to media, teens look to it for advice or guidance but come to find out it’s impossible to look perfect when looking perfect changes every day ("Procon").
In contrast to these cons, there are benefits as well. I will list the top and most researched benefits from social media. Online social networking can help adolescents learn how to socialize in the safety of various screens, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop (The Self Esteem Shop). It also creates new relationships and allows teens to connect or reconnect with friends and family, and increases communication, although online, it strengthens relationships. It opens opportunities to explore creative expression in a new medium. Media sites provide free messaging, blogging, photo storage, games, event invitations, and many other services to anyone with access to a computer and the Internet ("Procon"). Social media also reduces health risks and promotes stroke recovery, memory retention, and overall well-being (The Self Esteem Shop).
Social media also negatively impact teens by promoting negative body image to increase chance of eating disorders or suicide. An eating disorder is basically a compulsion to eat or avoid eating, which in either case damages an individual's mental and physical health. Teens are undeniably influenced by those around them, and by what they see on social media from television to the internet. Such a behavior affects a person's life deeply. It affects how they view their personal life, their professional life, self-image and social outlook. Eating disorders occur with both men and women, but it's more common in the earlier years of life and occurs in women twice as much as it occurs in men. The common forms are Anorexia and bulimia. For many, especially young girls, eating disorders are the result of conforming to peer pressure or a widely accepted appearance. And this is where media plays it’s not so healthy part. “The print and electronic media are overflowing with images of celebrities and models who are unbelievably thin and promote the concept of ‘health'.” But the fact is that all the celebrities have eating disorders as well, and this is what the common people look past or just are not aware of. Even top models admit that media pressure and the hype that associates beauty with thinness has forced them into having eating disorders. While pressure from eating disorders is eating away at teens, its killing them inside by not being able to achieve how they want to look. This leads into deep depression and causes most cases of suicide in teens today.() also with cyber bullying comes the risk of innocent teens thinking the world is better without them which is very untrue, but with social networking it makes it easier to bully than face-to-face bullying. The have been many cases of suicide due to media and social media.
Some might say that the more teens are not corrupted as people may think with all of the models and idols today admitting to eating disorders there is now prevention programs in the social media that provide them with the intent to reach out for help when they need it. They say that they have such programs for Suicide prevention also. As well as a place to just vent frustration is provides a place for teens to unite with all the same problems. These chat rooms and hotlines are not just for prevention they are also for people just having a really bad day, it allows teens to talk it out and problem solve about things in a healthy way (Sandler). Facebook, a social networking cite, also has a form where users can report a friend’s suicidal content for Facebook administrators to review. Signs of withdraws are signs to watch out for when dealing with teens and depression, usually very active people tend to have major withdraws from their social life and this is when the need to be reached out to and provided that extra help that they need and some social media networks allow you to get very helpful advice all anonymously (Gerdeman).
As I led you through the comparison and contrast of social media’s impact on teenagers today, hopefully you can see that negative affects out way the positive. As you can see when private goes public in social media it has some extreme results on teens’ emotions and actions. Social media is getting out of control and lately in recent times has done nothing but negatively impacted teens’ health by promoting sexual activity, causing cases of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and by promoting negative body image to increase chance of eating disorders and suicide. More teen’s everyday care more about what they look like more then who they really are. The media is responsible for what it promotes and it should be responsible about what it chooses to portray as healthy, because negative influence on us separates individuals from negatively and causes us to do strange things, in some cases anything.