If a girl had a choice, would she rather be with Edward or Jacob from the movie Twilight? Or would she prefer just being the popular girl in school who gets to party, drink and never face the consequences of her actions like in the teen drama, Gossip Girl? Other teen dramas include Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, and Skins (Mann), and they are but a few of the many teen drama shows that have become a part of popular culture in today’s world.
Teen dramas are sometimes harmless, and in fact enjoyable to watch, but often they demonstrate to adolescents and teens that it is okay to do certain things that in normal everyday life are not appropriate. Since these types of shows have become popular, they potentially have a significant influence over their viewers, specifically teens (who are their target audience).
Teen dramas display actions like drinking, having sex, and taking drugs as rather common things for teens to do, which may influence their audience into possibly partaking in such actions. For example, the constant abuse of alcohol or drugs shown in many teen dramas may lead susceptible teenagers to follow suit. Some teens may be more impressionable than others and may easily fall victim to copying what they see in films or on television. This is a potential problem in society that may become an epidemic or pattern of behavior among teens due to peer pressure.
One example of an issue that may arise from teenagers watching impressionable teen dramas is underage sexual activity. Kelly (479) reports that many teenagers lose their virginity based on how their views about sex are shaped by socially constructed views about virginity and having sex for the first time.
It is also noted that these views are influenced by sexual socialization of various entities in an adolescent’s or teen’s life such as their family, peers and religion. Additionally, the media is a significant influence on teens and how they perceive virginity and virginity loss, because the media is a major contributor to pop culture trends such as teen dramas (Kelly 479).
Statistically speaking, Kelly (480) reports that a 2005 study shows that the influence of sexual content in film and television programs geared toward teens is significant. Findings were, out of 1,154 television shows, 68% included dialogue about sex and 35% of the programs portrayed sexual behavior.
Another study’s findings showed that 90% of programs analyzed had teenage characters portraying sexual content (Kelly 480). This type of exposure to the portrayal of sexual behavior among teens as socially acceptable can definitely influence teens in this area, especially those who may be disproportionately susceptible to copycat behavior.
Other areas of concern for teens, as it relates to them watching teen dramas, include drug and alcohol abuse tendencies. An article on WebMD.com reports that a survey by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse shows that teenagers who watch suggestive programming geared toward teens, such as teen dramas, are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes or marijuana (Mann 1). One expert referred to the way teen dramas glorify drugging and drinking as a risk to public health. Additionally, the article points out that teens are exposed to these types of programs in the absence of censorship or moral or educational statements before or after the shows, and this leaves impressions on teens that what they see is acceptable in the real world and that it is all popular, so it is okay (Mann 2). Many teens may use this concept as an excuse to do inappropriate and irresponsible things when they know better than to do those things. They do things based on popularity, and they see many inappropriate, popular things on teen dramas that are also reinforced by their own peers through social networking on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Popularity of a trend often gives people an excuse to condone the behaviors that stem from a trend and what is seen in the media has a significant influence on this. For example, a 2005 article in The Seattle Times reports on how teen drama, South of Nowhere, depicts teen life. This series (which may not be airing today) follows the lives of several teenagers and their teenage issues, while portraying positive story lines. However, the show still has sexual aspects to it. The article points out that the show may send the message of saying no to sex, but implies that teens have many opportunities to get propositioned for sex and this is shown as normal (McFadden). The article also states that South of Nowhere has too many sexually-tinged concepts such as sexual preferences, a dating competition and popularity contests.
Additionally, the issue that is most interesting, that the article points out, is the fact that the show’s website released a poll and asked preteens and teens which of the show’s characters they preferred to see “hook up,” and McFadden asks why, out of all the other positive content in the show, would sex be at the top of the agenda to have the young audience focus on? It speaks to the way today’s society passively allows teen corruption by overlooking such events.
To help combat social passivity, as it relates to teen programming, an article in The Independent, reports that First the Parents Television Council (PTC) aims to censor more programs in this country. For instance, PTC warned the public that the popular British-born teen drama, Skins, is dangerous for underage viewers and this prompted media company, Viacom, to prompt producers of MTV, where the show airs, to tone explicit content down. However, despite the censorship attempts, Skins still premiered with record ratings, attracting viewers between the ages of 12 and 34. The show carried a rating that it was only suitable for people over 17 years of age, yet the article states that almost 1 million viewers were under age 18 (Cult British teen drama). This brings up the issue, mentioned above, regarding the sexual socialization of various entities in an adolescent’s or teen’s life such as their family. It raises the question of why responsible adults would allow a child to view such programming, or whether or not they are even monitoring what their children are watching or are exposed to in this world.
With all that has been analyzed in this paper, it seems that the trend seen in teen dramas today may be a new revolution. It seems that suggestive viewing that includes irresponsible behavior, sexual situations, drug abuse and alcohol use among teens may become socially acceptable just like other previously social taboos such as women smoking and interracial dating. Society’s views on various issues have evolved over the last hundred years and the times are constantly changing with every generation, and this gives a new meaning to the old saying, “What is the world coming to?” The answer to this question, however, remains to be seen.
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