Media/social media and its influence on children and youth development

By: Jamie B

Over the last few decade’s social media/ media has been surfacing more and more each year and the effect it plays on youth is becoming even greater. Media and social media are how the majority of youth and children get influenced and motivated in today’s modern age. I find the biggest form of media influence on youth is through television. The amount of television that children watch today is outrageous and it eliminates a youth’s drive to be active and creative. This is also where most youth and children will discover their role models and receive their influences. So we find ourselves asking, what influences and messages are the majority of youth receiving?

According to the article “Impact of media- Are we over stimulating young children?” (Price-Mitchell, 2012), “In 1970, the average age at which children watched television was four years old. Today, the average age is four months. The typical child before the age of five is watching 4 ½ hours of television per day, 40% of their waking hours!” This is absolutely ridiculous. If children are starting to watch television at this young of age and this excessively, then just imagine how things will be when they are trying to develop as a youth and then onto an adult.  In his article “Media and youth: Access, exposure, and privatization”, which is based on studies of youth engagement with media, Roberts (2000) states that, “American youth devote more time to media than to any other waking activity, as much as one-third of each day. This demands increased parental attention and research into the effects of such extensive exposure”. This should be an eye opener to parents of these youth.

This brings me to influences and role models that youth receive through consuming different forms of media like television, social networks like Facebook and twitter, and even through music. We have all heard about numerous Hollywood scandals that are just plastered all over every form of social media like Miley Cyrus’ twerking incident or Tiger Wood’s affairs for instance. If youth are using these forms of social media excessively and these people involved with these situations just so happen to be a role model or an influence to that youth, the messages that youth are receiving are obviously negative and are inconsistent with the positive values and social norms that are associated with positive youth development.

Another type of influence through social media that I think should be focused on most is violent influences and violent role models through media and sport. These, to me, are by far the worst influences and role models a youth could have. According to an Anderson et al.’s (2003) article  “media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts”. Research has demonstrated that if one engages in watching violent television shows or movies, or playing violent video games, they are more likely to engage in aggressive or violent acts in real life. I believe that it is necessary and beneficial for youth and children to have positive role models to look up to. This is how some youth develop some of their positive characteristics through watching their favorite athlete on the television. Whether an athlete demonstrates good sportsmanship or by being a good teammate.

I feel that even though social media has so many negative effects and outcomes, there are still some benefits that can be received by watching certain shows (in moderation). For example, television can be educational and stimulating the brain of a youth.

For more information:

Anderson, C. A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L. R., Johnson, J. D., Linz, D., … & Wartella, E. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(3), 81-110.

Price-Mitchell, Marilyn. (2011). Impact of Media: Are We Over-Stimulating Young Children.

Roberts, D. F. (2000). Media and youth: Access, exposure, and privatization. Journal of adolescent health, 27(2), 8-14.

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8 Responses to Media/social media and its influence on children and youth development

  1. r3cwk says:

    As much as I do belive that the amount of time in front of the screen is excessive, it’s really more the quality of the television that concerns me more and more. TV is a form of art and i`t’s one in which we can visually experience emotion. At age 3 or four, you can start understanding what is being shown on TV and they can react accordingly. At four months, you don’t even know your abc’s yet, theres no understanding of the amterial shown, and on top of that the shows tehmselves don’t evoke any emotion, tension or engagement. Basically these programs are a shinnier version of dangling keys in front of your toddlers face.
    I just hope that the quality of TV for kids increases, and the quantity of time in front decreases, if not I’m scared to see what will come of the next generation after generation Z.

  2. ashleylegresley says:

    I have to agreet with what r3cwk has to say about the quality of the programs that are broadcast on television these days. Children may be watching more television than they have in the past but the content of these programs is what really bothers me.
    When I was growing up the typical shows were the Bug Bunny and Tweety Bird Show, Looney Tunes, Chip n Dale Rescue rangers, Duck Tales,the Smurfs, Care Bears to only name a few. These were colorful, fun filled shows that even today, I enjoy watching. They were cleanand the ideas and content was suitable for young viewers.
    Now in today’s society, we are worried how our children will take Wile E. Coyote trying to kill the road runner. We all knew that the things Wile E. Coyote was doing (ie. using explosives) was dangerous but you never saw any of us trying to mimic his actions and blow someone up. Society believes that this is the reason children are the way they are today. What about the television shows available now?
    We watched the NEW Looney Tunes show and were shocked at the sex content in it. Many children wouldn’t understand it, and it was probably intended for the parents watching it to get a laugh or two out of it, but by submitting our children to these adult situations, how is it going to affect their development?
    Adult television shows and television providers seem to have little to no regard as to what time children may be able to watch such inapporpriate content. There are shows with full on nudity and adult themes as early as 5pm. I may not have children, but to my knowledge and experience, children are still wide awake and quite possibly watching television at this time.
    My word of advice for parents is to WATCH what your children are watching at least an episode or two to get a feel for the type of content your child will be watching and block any inapproptiate channels or shows that you don’t want your child to view.

  3. s33ue says:

    I understand that there are some forms of television shows and video games now structured towards youth in a positive development. Items such as the Wii Fit and mentally challenging games are devoted to helping youth learn in a positive manner from screen time. This being said I do not believe that these games are capable of replacing the benefits that being physically active can have for youth.
    The interactions that youth have when they are participating in sport and recreation do not only help them to develop interpersonal skills but they also learn how to deal with conflict, develop a sense of self and are benefiting their personal health. The world of social media is expanding like wild fire. Youth are watching television, spending hours in front of computer screens playing video games or entertaining themselves on Facebook. This kind of sedentary behaviour not only exposes the youth to anything available on the internet but they are also not receiving any physical activity in their lives. The violence or negative images that youth can be exposed to due to the mass amount of social media they are exposed to today is creating great opportunity for youth to potentially make poor decisions.
    I think that there needs to be a shift away from the social media world for youth to be back in a physical activity setting. Not sitting in front of a video game imitating a sport. This will not only help youth creating relationships but also will benefit with a healthier lifestyle.

    Gina R

  4. colleendaly says:

    Great post Jamie,
    In my opinion, children need to be steered in the direction of going outside and being active. Yes wii fit and other electronic games encourage children to be active. However, they do not help children be creative and imaginative. One of the many amazing things about childhood is the freedom to be as creative as you want. I believe that screen time is taking away that opportunity from youth.
    Also, without parents supervision, children can come across many negative shows that are not age appropriate. This may effect a child’s development, and possibly “scar” them. Television can have a very negative influence on youth, especially if a child is watching a show that they should not be.
    I believe children should be encouraged to go outside and play games with their friends that do not involve any screens. Playing non structured activities can have a very positive influence on a child. If parents feel as though they do not live in a safe enough area for their child to go outside for themselves, they can encourage their child to play games indoors. For example, board games, can allow a child to think and be creative, instead of staring at a screen for hours.
    In my opinion, there are a lot more negatives than positives when it comes to youth and screen time. Children need to be encouraged to use their imaginations and be active on a daily basis, and this will help them develop in a positive way.
    I really enjoyed your blog! And I do feel that children are getting to much time in front of the television, and other screens.
    Colleen D

  5. b6m9 says:

    Great post,
    I agree that many of the programs are geared towards young adults like Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad to name a few. These programs have many hidden messages geared to the older viewers however there are many youth who watch theses programs as well. The evidence of negative influences is evident while listening to todays youth talk about the shows, using lines from the show and not knowing the true meaning of the saying. Youth need to go back to the days when kids ran home from school, opened the door, threw their book bag in the corner and ran outside to play until supper time. The rules when I was a youngster, a few years back, we had to be home for meals and curfew was usually when the street lights came on. Youth who are forced to decide on rules, make up games, and just use their imagination to figure out the rest will develop many developmental assets in the process. I feel that youth are way overstimulated and what I mean by this is that youth almost always have a piece of technology in their ear, eye or hand taking away from free thinking time just to unwind. As far as the massive problem with parents allowing their 4 month old to watch television and using 40%of a child’s day is mind boggling. Parents should be using the time during the early years to expose their child to as many outdoor activities as possible to stimulate and peak their interest in nature. Allow them to explore and run free, to figure things out on their own. If society does not get involved to help with this recurring issue then we will experience youth troubled with speaking and communicating, problem solving, creativity, interpersonal skills, empathy and the list will go on and on. My plea is to take the time and go outside with your child, nephew, cousin and just do as we put it in the past “just play”.
    Dave M

  6. sarahholt4 says:

    Very interesting topic!
    I completely agree that youth development is being effected by the amount of television and other social media that is being consumed. I was shocked to read that the average age at which children watch television today is four months old! I have to blame this mainly on the parents. At this age, a child cannot typically grab the television remote and turn on their favourite show. In families today, they are very busy. If a parent has housework to do, or work to do, they are going to sit their child in front of a television and just turn it on a show. It distracts them; it is almost like another form of a babysitter. I feel that if kids are starting to watch television that young, that it will become a habit and in time create a negative youth development because they will not want to do anything outdoors and have no drive to engage in physical activity.

    I also agree completely with social media being a negative influence, which can create negative youth development through the child’s role model or the violence that they are witnessing. Along the lines of Miley Cyrus, there were some kids from my town that really looked up to her, and loved her show “Hannah Montana”. But after everything Miley did, blew up the media, the kids parents will no longer allow their children to follow up in the news on Miley Cyrus. In another way, I do believe some social media can create a positive youth development, as long as it is being used the correct way. For example, if you have some kids that are shy at making friends, maybe they find it easier to talk to an individual on the computer, and then it would make it easier to talk to the same individual in person. But I think that if parents enforced that their kids played outside in their neighbourhood at a young age, that these issues would not happen.
    Sarah H.

  7. Millennium and generation Y/Z kids are driven by technology. They are continually exposed to technological devices, and are told that by understanding how to use them, they can further themselves in life. Due to technology children have become lazy and use to the idea of instant gratification. In the world of technology kids can access pretty much anything, including mixed messages and negative influences. Technology is about promotion and social media, every game, television show or news feed you watch or read has some form of advertisement trying to persuade you to look or act a certain way. The real world is hard enough to grow up in, keeping track of social norms, education and the hectic schedule of being a child, without all the media pressure on top of that.
    So why is that kids spend their free time with eyes glued to a screen, watching fictional characters or individuals who are acting out a written character and trying to imitate them? The real world may have become a dangerous place where parents do not want their kids out on the streets playing, but the alternative, in my opinion is just as scary. Youth are looking at characters in movies and TV shows thinking that they are their roles models, when in reality what those characters experience and have is nothing close to reality and real life goals. The societal pressure to have more, make lots of money, and have the best version of everything is due to social media. Looking at celebrities and seeing all that they have, and the comfortable life they lead, makes us believe that we should strive for that.
    Youth are so impressionable, learning through mimicking the actions of those they see as their role models. It is up to the adults in their life to lead by example, and show them what reality really looks like. Teach them values and skills that they can use in the future, don’t place them in front of a screen and expect a television character to enhance their social, psychological, physical and cognitive skills.

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