The Media and Today’s Youth Today, there is no escape from the flamboyant displays of sex and violence on television, in the movies, and in commercial advertising. When watching the morning news, the television floods with reports of sexual assault and murder. When waiting in line at the grocery store, it is impossible to ignore the headlines accusing wives of cheating and husbands of abuse. When driving on the highway, it is difficult to concentrate on the road with audacious billboards with half-naked women around every corner.
Similarly, it seems that today’s children are becoming increasingly dependent of modern technology including cell phones, video games, and internet, making the sex and violence seen in the media more accessible than ever. So if a young girl is experimenting with sex before she has even reached puberty, or if a young boy brings a gun to elementary school, this behavior cannot be blamed on characteristics inherited at birth. Rather, it is the unavoidable truth that young people are corrupted by the constant exposure to the provocative media.
Children were certainly not born with the aforementioned negative behaviors, therefore it must be a direct effect of the environment. So does this mean that people are born moral and molded into violent, promiscuous creatures? According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, humans are “inherently good” and in order to demonstrate the ability of outside forces to molest the natural good nature of humans, he compares the human heart to a barley seed.
Though all seeds, like the human heart have the potential to grow just as strong and healthy as the rest, there is always the possibility that external obstacles will inhibit some from succeeding as much as others. Similarly, the philosopher Hsun Tzu explains that the environment that a person grows in will significantly affect the person he or she is soon to become. Although he contrasts the argument of Mencius in his beliefs that humans are born with evil tendencies and are only made good through training and education.
Both philosophers, however, agree that training and mentoring is vital to shaping behavior. If a man is surrounded by evil, it is inevitable that he will develop evil characteristics. Therefore, the theories of both Mencius and Tzu contrast the current values of American popular culture. Constant exposure to pop media promoting uninhibited sex is leading to a total loss of conservative values, especially among young girls. Values such as monogamy, loyalty, modesty, and self-respect are crucial to maintaining a decent image of the American Woman.
Fashion magazines directed toward young women are bursting with photo-shopped ads for perfume, jewelry, and clothing showing women with little clothing covering their hourglass frames. If kids are exposed to over 250,000 commercial advertisements by the age of 17, then it is impossible to deny that this influences their views on what types of behavior is appropriate. Not only are young girls pressured to keep up with unrealistic body images but also with ridiculous norms of behavior for their age group, including drinking excessively, dressing provocatively, and acting recklessly.
Watching a show every week like Jersey Shore which openly glorifies sex and drinking will undoubtedly begin to make young girls believe that such behavior is desirable. A typical episode of this popular show includes an entertaining portrayal of a small group of young Italian adults who are paid to act foolishly. On a typical day, the group of “guidos” spend time working out, tanning, drinking, and helping out at a beach-side t-shirt shop on the infamous Jersey Shore boardwalk. The end of the show highlights their evening routine including unhealthy amounts of alcohol, minimal clothing, and lots of sexual content.
Girls who act inappropriately at a young age were clearly taught how to do so by the poor role models who are paid millions of dollars per year to corrupt American youth. To make matters worse, these ideas seem to be reinforced with displays of sexual innuendo everywhere young people look. The explosion of personal computers within the last 20 years has allowed children to have more access to adult content than ever before. The internet is flooded with websites streaming free pornography and all a child needs is a computer and Google search.
While there are some ways that parents can censor what their children view online, most kids are knowledgeable enough about computers to get around any firewalls. Additionally, there is very few children today who do not own a smartphone; a personal device that opens the doors to unlimited searching without censorship. But who needs porn when there is sexting? Today’s young people seem to be increasingly more open to send each other sexually explicit text messages or pictures without true control over where they are sent.
The idea of sexting would seem much more scandalous, however, if they were not observing such behavior from their role models on TV, in magazines, or on the internet. Unfortunately, sex in the media is not the only problem. Violent video games are becoming increasingly more realistic and allow people to live vicariously through the animation, causing real-life violence to seem mundane. For example, the game Grand Theft Auto is wildly popular among the youth as it allows players to earn points through stealing cars, mugging pedestrians, assaulting prostitutes, and murdering strangers.
This type of game is obviously entertaining, but should not be available for kids at the local videogame provider. To make matters worse, the quickly advancing technology allows for a more life-like picture than ever before. Therefore, the line drawn between fantasy and reality becomes blurry; a dangerous problem when it comes to violent crimes. Kids who are involved in gang violence and vicious crimes had to have learned this behavior from somewhere.
While it is a valid point that television and videogames cannot make a person do something they do not want to do, it is undeniable that the media is capable of putting the idea in that person’s head. While adults are able to put violent and sexual content inside of context, children are not mature enough to realize the difference between how people act on entertainment television versus real life. With adult content becoming available to increasingly younger age groups, it appears that there is no limit to how young children are able to access the world of sex and violence.
Hsun Tzu reinforces this argument with his statement that “environment is everything” when it comes to the root of human nature and his belief that values are learned through practice. The corruption of today’s young people is a negative bi-product of the digital revolution and has created colossal problems for the youth of society. But it is your responsibility as the youth of America to take a step back and realize that we need to hold on tight to our morals and values if we want to preserve The American Dream.