Media Impact on Adolescent Development

A wide range of studies has linked the media use with cognitive skills development as well as academic success, with a large number of comprehensive studies, in a strong way, giving out a suggestion that content is the most significant “mediating factor in the relation” (Kirkorian, et al, 2008, p.53). It is pointed out that although the finding is “particularly true for television, it is likely to be important for interactive media as well” (Kirkorian, et al, 2008, p.53). Strong evidence do exist which indicate that children who are more than two years of age engage in learning from the media and there is also moderate evidence that indicates that having exposure to educational television in the course of the preschool period is positively related to some measures of academic success of ten years later (Schmidt, 2007). It is pointed out that moderate evidence as well gives out a suggestion that “early exposure to purely entertainment content, and media violence, in particular, is negatively associated with cognitive skills and academic achievement” (Kirkorian, et al, 2008, p.53).

The research findings that have been obtained following the studies that have been undertaken about the benefits that are associated with having exposure to the high-quality, age-suitable educational media provide “producers of child-directed media an opportunity to capitalize on the time that children older than two spend using media” (Kirkorian, et al, 2008, p.53). There are two main groups of individuals that can influence on negative effects of media. Hence, parents along with manufacturers should encourage positive aspects and develop benefits of media instead of propagandizing its unfavorable impact. Research is supposed to offer guidance to the production of those programs which promote learning and transfer. There is moderate evidence that also suggests that parents can as well maximize the gains derived from the media by engaging in the selection of the age-appropriate, educational programs and “co-viewing with their children” (Kirkorian, et al, 2008, p.53).

Adolescence is a stage of wide-ranging moral, physical, cognitive, and emotional development. These changes have a double effect on the relationship of adolescents with the mass media. They affect the way adolescents approach media and also the way this group of people is affected by the media. Considering cognitive development, in this course of adolescence, a more complex form of reasoning comes up. The intellectual development of these young people alters the way they interpret the media. Even if the adolescents can engage in undertaking the evaluation of the media environment critically, “when persons become habituated to looking at a medium that is as anti-intellectual as television largely is, they develop a non-critical attitude and a disposition to ‘look without seeing” (Nevins, 2007, p.5).

The producers as well consumers may wish to hold a belief that adolescents have enough cognitive development to cushion the media’s negative effect. However, this is not true, having more life experience does not protect one against the influence of the media. Society still needs to take responsibility and engage in monitoring the use of the media by adolescents. Looking at moral development, during this stage, this is characterized by “a concentration on fundamental moral principles such as respect and altruism” (Nevins, 2007, p.5). The youths in this stage turn out to be more socially conscious, and the moral principles that have can “transcend the conventional notion of wrong and right” (Nevins, 2007, p.5). They mostly mark a shift from judgments that are made based on “external consequences and personal gain to judgments based on rules or norms of a group to which they belong” (Nevins, 2007, p.7). In general terms, adolescents engage in internalizing these norms. The unavoidable media presence makes it to be “a source for social norms – a reference for moral standards” (Nevins, 2007, p.7). Since the media presents a world dominated by violence, it is our responsibility to face the challenging reality that adolescents are engaging in the consumption and internalizing of violent moral standards.

Considering moral development, it is found out that the basic feature of the emotional development of the adolescent is identity formation. In the course of the adolescent stage, the young people in this stage of life develop a sense of self which encompasses their abilities, their values, and their hopes about the future. It is pointed out that “the emerging sense of self is fragile, impressionable, and remarkably susceptible to the effects of the media” (Nevins, 2007, p.5). The media offer information concerning issues like violence and sex which, in relative terms, the adolescents might not be familiar with. It is pointed out that it is “in the area of the unfamiliar, where parents have not yet made clear their point of view, that TV influences impressionable beliefs and attitudes” (Nevins, 2007, p.6). Given the occurrence of media violence, adolescents can not evade incorporating some of the aspects of media violence into their behavior patterns as well as identities. It is the responsibility of the parents and other older people that are close to these youths, such as teachers, to have this awareness for them to be able to guide them in the most appropriate way possible.


Kirkorian, L. H. et al, (2008). Media and young children’s learning. The Future of Children, 18(1), 39 – 612.

Schmidt, M. E. et al. (2007). Two-year olds’ object retrieval based on television: Testing a perceptual account. Media Psychology, 9(1), 389 – 409.

Nevins, T. (2007). The effects of media violence on adolescent health. Physicians for Global Health, 1(1), 1 – 37.

Thompson, K. & Haninger, K,. (2010). Violence in E-Rated Video Games. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 286, 591-598, 2001.

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