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What is the Influence of Media on Adolescent Mind?

Scientific knowledge requests for empirical confirmations, which involve proving of statements with objective verification. Several research studies about contemporary issues have been carried out over the years. One of the most popular researches was carried out using scientific methods to prove the influence of media on gender roles. The formulated question aimed at debunking the influence of media on the adolescent mind.

What are the Hypotheses Formulated for the Study?

Positive hypotheses were formulated. These hypotheses showed how the American media produced and promoted many theories and ideas that significantly influenced their awareness and what American adolescents thought about it. The study was conducted to look at and study the perceptions of ninth grade students on their body and self-image with regard to the content shown in the media.

What is the Overall Goal of the Research Study?

The goal of the study was to tell educators about the importance of a comprehensive education in media literacy especially for students entering high school. The survey served as a basic quantitative analysis of student's perception while the presentation and reflection journals established served as means of qualitative analysis (Roberts, 2001).

How Does the Print Media and Popular Magazine Affect the Body and Self Images of Teenagers?

The research questions asked how the media especially the print media and the popular magazines affected the body and self-images of both teenage boys and girls. Under the research there were other questions formulated to find out what kind of male bodies were presented by the media, what kind of female bodies were presented by the media, whether the images were considered ideal for the society, or the images were realistic; where the ideal stereotypic female and male bodies were seen most often, and how these images directly affected the youngsters’ feelings about themselves. The results showed that teenagers were believed to be among the real users of the many forms of print media available in the market (Jackman, 2009).

This study revealed that several magazines were targeted on adolescent women giving a glimpse of ideal successful female, describing dependency between success, happiness and physical forms. These magazines promoted ultra thinness as a desired state of health, beauty and in such way popularized the self-esteem of many of their teenage clients. These unrealistic and unhealthy ideas were established as the society's ideals that drove many female teenagers into making dangerous and unhealthy choices with regard to their appearances and body weight. The study also showed that the media's effects on the adolescents' body images were not solely associated with females but men too. Male body images focused on increased muscular shapes and weights. The need to develop sturdiness emerged as an important issue among the teenage boys. This study adopted many aspects of earlier studies carried out in this field. However, the researchers made it unique and more comprehensive than the others by taking a step further to question the students on their experiences with regard to the influence of media on their image (Perry, J. & Perry, E, 2001).

What is the Data Collection Method Used?

Data collection methods involved surveys given to each student. The administered surveys had two parts. The first part included general questions about body image, media and gender while the second part included more personal questions about body weight, shape and size. In addition to, there were teacher surveys given to school counselors and facilitating health teachers. Posters and representations were the second part of the data collection. Here, students were given blank poster boards and asked to look through several magazines to select stereotype images that presented male and female body images in unnatural or unrealistic ways. The final aspect of data collection involved one page written reflections on the discussions among class groups. Materials were all analyzed and synthesized and given back to the students (Perry, J. & Perry, E, 2001).

According to the data analysis and presentation, it was noted, that many students correctly noted that the stereotypical images portrayed by the media were not typical for the general population of those they know. It was also noted that both genders agreed, that of all the media outlets, the magazines were the most influential. The data gathered from poster presentations, merely reinforced the already understood notions of what the stereotypes were in the media. In the process, there were comparisons made among genders. Most males selected and highlighted images, which had bulging muscles and curved women while the females focused on facial complexions, diet and weight loss messages, hair color and style (Perry, J. & Perry, E, 2001).

It was established, that the reinforcement of ideal female and male bodies was the media's constant bombardment of slim, skimpily clad women and fawn, well-built, brown and half-naked men, which exactly indicated the negative influence of media on these young minds. It was also clear that teenagers gave more credibility to the popular magazines and print media by reading them on a daily basis and signifying what was considered cool or hot. These magazines featured favorite celebrities idolized by the students and this encouraged them even more. The power of magazines and print media on the young people was found consequentially influential and strong. The powerful influence was derived from the abilities of the media in presenting images in ways that seemed normal and natural, but in reality, these images of perfect bodies were digitally altered and airbrushed. Images that infiltrated the minds of the young people effectively manipulated their self-esteems especially in regards to their physical appearance. The study showed that the constant scenes of skinny, big-breasted, tan, tall and sexual images exposed to teenagers, made them have illusion images on how they should look like (Roberts, 2001).

The study found out, that the negative effects of media were streamed toward the female population. In this view, the media promoted unrealistic and unattainable body types, and images fostered in young people’s minds a wish leading them to buy advertised products in magazines and print media and eventually supported the mentally unhealthy lifestyles they aimed at. It was interesting, that most students felt as if they understood that the media was portraying stereotypic images of males and females. However, most of the male students wrote that the media did not influence them in significant ways, but they still opted to use them to succeed more with athletics and women. On the other hand, it was clear, that the female students constantly heard messages about how they could be popular by being skinny and fit. Most advertisements in the media did not necessarily use direct words in describing certain attributes but used twisted ways like the clothing that women wore to portray different body sizes. It was a clear fact that media did influence adolescents about their body images and shapes in much negative ways. Teacher surveys served as the outsiders' viewpoints. Teachers played pivotal roles in influencing students in various ways. They, as educators, were involved in impacting positive influences on their students. Most of them taught their students to portray images that represented their selves and encouraged them not to get influenced by the media in ways dangerous to their health and well-being (Mahoney & Rueschemeyer, 2003).

As it was a study based on scientific methods, there were action plans. The study  advocated media literacy units in schools. It emphasized the need of giving critical thinking tools to the students to enable them analyze and avoid the negative influences, which the media is imposing on them. The study suggested that media literacy should help the students understand why and how the media portrays people and help them differentiate between realistic and fake consequential images. Based on the survey results, it was recommended for students to actively engage in conversations and activities that reflected on their physical appearance in relation to the norms and stereotypes presented by the media. The results received were not surprising as they reflected common situation across many schools in the country. They were a clear satisfaction of what was expected and effectively answered the formulated questions and the predictions made (Roberts, 2001).
Scientific investigation in the above study had inquiry phases in which the goals of the study had to be formulated and the questions supposed to be asked identified. This paved way for other phases like analysis and interference. The analysis phase involved segments of data that needed to be accessed, processed and represented. Inference phases involved declarative claims where inhibition of claims not justified and making those that were justified. There was comparison analysis for effective and extensive research (Perry, J. & Perry, E, 2001).

Relevance of Scientific Methods in Social Science

Scientific methods of analyses, inquiry, finding out theories and empirical findings aim at obtaining knowledge as explanations on what can be tested and proved in order to predict future results. Through these scientists get crucial information that aids them to understand and correctly intervene in the social and physical aspects of the society. Useful predictions make better explanations and more likeliness in establishing the correct contents. Experimental results do not always result in a large change of the human understanding , but improvements in theoretical understanding of science is usually a result of gradual synthesis obtained from different experiments carried out by various researchers across different scientific domains . There is variance in scientific models to extents that vary in what experiments are tested, the duration taken, and if they are accepted in the society and the scientific communities.  Generally, scientific analysis and explanations are accepted by the society and the scientific communities through the presentation of the favored evidence and inconsistent presumptions that falsify the evidence and in turn the whole process. With each theory and finding explaining more than previous or existing research studies, it is considered essential for any theory succeeding others to meet higher standards; that can explain larger and unified observations explained by the previous findings or the existing ones.

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