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The Effects of Media on Adolescents

Around any high school the questions Have you checked your Facebook? or Did you
see the picture that was just posted on Instagram? are often heard. In reality the amount of times
questions like these are asked is at a ridiculous level. It has, in fact, come to a point where words
like selfie and twerk are placed in the vocabulary of every tech savvy teen. Along with the
spread of internet popularity, many teenagers are developing disorders like depression, anxiety,
and various phobias. Media, encompassing many mediums, when exposed can cause many
disorders; these disorders can be reversed and prevented; however many people are blind to the
disorders and believe it not to be a problem.
Disorders
In this section the disorders, depression, anxiety, social phobias, and autism, will be
described as well as providing an explanation of their scope. With the progression this section it
will be seen the severity of media on adolescents.
Depression can be defined as the long or short term prevalence of hopelessness and the
uncontrollability of emotions. With the help of media, depression has started to affect teens of
the 21
st
century. Harvard Medical School stated that while a full-blown depression most often
starts in mid-adulthood, low-grade depression, or dysthymia, may begin during childhood or the
teenage years.(qtd. in Depression in Children and Teenagers). It can be seen that, because the
symptoms of depression start on a significantly small-scale, physiologist are unable to identify
the problem in adolescents. And because the signs go unnoticed, it only progresses into more
severe cases of depression; it is also possible that more and more adolescents will feel the need
to be like their peers, and use social media. According to Manikandan Raman, a writer for
International Business Times, more than half of people aged 12 and older [, in 2011, had] a
profile on Facebook.(qtd. in Facebook May Cause Psychological Disorders, Study Says).
This figure is significantly higher than the 8 percent on Facebook in 2008. With this rate of
increase most of our teens will be on social media in five years.
Anxiety is the state of often disabling apprehension, uncertainty and fear. When the cause
of anxiety is known it becomes an immediate fear and problem for the said teen and their
parents. According to The American Heritage College Dictionary anxiety is caused by the
anticipation of something terrifying.(The American Heritage College Dictionary, 61). In what
way could technology relate to something terrifying? Well, when adolescents become addicted to
media they become afraid of losing what they are addicted to, much like drug addicts, except in
this case it is the thought of losing things like their phone, WIFI, or social media access. There
are many nervous ticks involved with this fear. In a radio interview, author Larry D. Rosen talks
about teens being unable to go without checking their pockets for their phones and the teens have
extremely hard time eating dinner without their phone on the table.(Cavanaugh et al). It seems
that these fears are minuscule however, when these habits progress they can have a long-term
affect.
Social Phobias are the fears associated with being social or attending social events. When
concerning video games and teenagers researchers found that video games are indeed addictive.
In the same study, the researchers drew a conclusion that showed a connection between social
interaction and video game addiction. It concluded that teens with poor social skills were more
susceptible to addiction.(Joelving). This connection shows a need for parents to help their
children to become more social if their teens are to stay safe from video game addiction.
Technology, in the form of social media, does not only act as a catalyst to symptoms but can also
cause them. Author Larry D. Rosen stated that if people are hurt online or receive nasty
comments they may begin to feel phobic about being social. (Cavanaugh et al). When
teenagers continue to use social media they only become more exposed to these negative
comments, thus becoming more vulnerable to social phobias.
Autism is abnormal introversion and egocentricity; it can also be the acceptance of
fantasy rather than reality. This was probably the most inconclusive part of the research
conducted on technology and adolescents; as it was not proven to have been caused by
technology, but connections were found. The connections found were: 1) Autism rates increased
with the introduction of cable television; and 2) Those in rainier climates were more likely to be
autistic. (Layton). These connections were not scientifically proven, however they were
statically accurate. With this being a possibility it is important to monitor the amount of time
spent looking at the television, computer, or phone. The National Bureau of Economic Research
found that young children are spending more time in front of the television today than they
did in the past. (qtd. in Does Watching Television Trigger Autism?). If this continues to
happen the amount of children with autism will be much greater than the current 1:100 ratio.
Solutions
Whether it be granted by the government or religious leaders, it is the known right to
bring change where change is needed. Now that the disorders have been addressed, it is only
logical to supply solutions. Change can be brought through schools, governments, and parents.
Schools are places where every American child is expected to attend. This being said,
schools are wonderful places for adolescents to learn the dangers of technology exposure.
Teachers ought to be held to a certain responsibility to the mental state of their students. If
teachers inform the youth about technology in moderation, society will look much better on a
superficial level. Even though schools provide areas for education, solutions can more effectively
be found on a legal level.
The government is the most efficient way to bring change to this pandemic. Said in the
Constitution is this: Congress shall make no law respecting the right of the people to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (U.S Constitution). When the People
petition the pen becomes mightier than the sword. Once a petition receives enough signatures it
will be reviewed by the executive branch. If the executive branch agrees with the motion, then
measures will be taken to enact legislation. And if that legislation regards technology
moderation, the amount of affected adolescents will decrease.
Parents are responsible for the well-being of their children. Parents can easily implement
reward systems and programs to help their child from becoming addicted and overexposed to
technology. Larry D. Rosen suggests taking what he and his family calls tech breaks in which
the family partakes in 15 minute breaks, from technology, during dinner. (Cavanaugh et al). If all
families did this social skills and family bonds would strengthen. This however is one out of
many systems that can be used to cut down screen time.
Debate Analysis
Although there seems to be no vague lines between good and bad exposure, various
people refuse to see the blatant effects of technology. In this section multiple viewpoints will be
analyzed so that a conclusion can be drawn on the effects of technology on adolescents.
The first viewpoints to be analyzed are those regarding depression and social media.
Most people view social media as an outstanding medium of communication and being social
however the websites can have backlash consequences. In a study conducted by the University
of Michigan social media use was linked to depression and anxiety and with further research,
they found that media was more clearly defined as a causative agent. (Gould). This study helps to
prove media as a negative concept, however the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
views social media as an outlet for cure. The association in exact words said sites could be
an innovative avenue for combating stigma surrounding mental health conditions. (Anxiety
and Depression Association of America). While this may be true, it is only so in a few cases,
whereas the statements of Robert Gould were backed by university level research. The other
viewpoints regard video game addiction. In the article Do Video Games Fuel Mental Health
Problems? video games are seen as addictive and dangerous to the minds of adolescents.
(Joelving). This conclusion was drawn off of numbers found in surveys given to school age
children. In the same article the president of the research division at a UK university stated that
if video games were addictive there would be a specialized clinic in every major city. (qtd.
in Do Video Games Fuel Mental Health Problems?). The contingencies of this professor do
not make sense; he claims that there would be clinics but, he fails to mention current therapy
offices. These debates will keep change and positive progression from getting into technology.
Conclusion
When one of every two high school students use social media, multiple times a day,
change must be seen as a necessity. The effects of media, on adolescents, can consist of various
disorders; there are several things that can be done to reverse and prevent; and; it is continuous
debate that will keep change from being made.