How Mass Media Affects Teenage Girls’ Body Image Research Paper Samples
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Media, especially the mass media, implies the range of media technologies that is aimed to reach large numbers of individuals and might be the whole nation like the television and radio. Mass media is mainly used to share information to many people in a bid to change behavior, pass across important information and sometimes urgent messages by the government. Teenagers are in a stage that is full of activities and growth and as a result, change is occurring. During this stage, the emotions of a teenager are heightened significantly in the sense that they can easily be mortified. Additionally, the knowledge that they are growing makes them to be so conscious of themselves in order to watch it whenever they are deviating from the so-called normal growth. This paper aims to find out how the mass media truly affects the body image of teenage girls.
When talking about body image, it simply implies the way an individual perceives one self’s aesthetics. This image might either be imposed onto him or her by the social media or other individuals including his or her friends. In other words, the term body image implies the appearance of the human body as others describe. Teenagers have a perceived body image that they have learnt from other people in school or out of school. This body image has a great impact upon the social life of an individual in the sense that it determines how one associates with other individuals. In addition, a teenager might be laughed at because of being fat, obese or thin. As a result of this, a teenager’s social life might end up being in ruins just because of the ruined body image perception.
The mass media seeks to pass across information to the general population be it across the world, country or town. For instance, the media serves to pass across information related to the general health of the public. In this case, the media points out clauses of individuals as being in the extremes implying that they are unhealthy. In this aspect, the obese teenagers are greatly stigmatized as a result of being pointed because of their weight status. The media in such situations talks about the obese teenagers negatively implying that their body image is actually non-representative and they should do something about it (Schooler et al. 2004: 38). This tarnishes one’s body image as he used to be perceived by others and even himself. In fact, she finds it difficult because her courage is destroyed.
In actuality, teenagers always wish to be told things in a positive manner or else things might fall apart and this goes mainly for the girls. According to Puhl, Luedicke and Heuer (2013: 805), overweight and obese persons have been stigmatized as a result of the mass media. This is attributed to the negative perception that they now possess. It is also reported that the obese persons have also been discriminated because of their body image to the extent that they are denied jobs, education and sometimes access to medical care. This is also true especially true for those jobs that are advertized on media and among the requirements for the job is that an individual should be of a certain body size. This immediately distorts the teens plans of getting that job and this just depicts the impact of mass media upon the teenage girls body images and consequently on their lives.
Body image also stresses the aspect of aesthetics and not only health matters like obesity and overweight. This is the category that majorly affects the teenage girls and their self images. Mass media has been as a tool for marketing the products of many companies and as a matter of fact, this mode of marketing is among the most used in addition to the radio. Among these products that are usually marketed, beauty products are marketed including body oils, lotions or even hair products. Teenage girls are usually looking to improve their body image for many reasons and whenever a new product is advertized on television, they are up to it (Bessenoff and Del Priore, 2007: 215). This sense of improving one’s beauty every now and then has really impacted their body image in the sense that those girls who are termed as not qualifying to be beautiful are usually downhearted.
It sometimes is mostly assumed that the body image is usually exaggerated but in truth, body image is among the major peer forces that drives the lives of teenagers especially the girls. The bleaching of one’s skin for example exposes the rest of the body to cancerous rays of the sun known as the UV rays causing cancer of the skin to the girls who were merely trying to impress others to boost their self esteem and also body image. In addition, some of the skin lotions and body products that teenage girls are implored to use by the mass media are totally harmful to their skin in the sense that they might be carcinogenic and cause cancer. For instance, Johnston and Taylor (2008: 941) give an example of a beauty corporation known as Virginia Slims which promotes feminist independence and sells women cancerous products that are addictive.
Mass media technologies are really turning the lives of teenage girls around in a bid to make profit considering that teenagers are simply a gullible lot. For many business enterprises, teenagers are a good source of market especially the body product firms. And in so doing, they seek to impress the young teenagers’ minds in order for them to purchase their products. Thus, it is almost nearly impossible to blame a teenager for her actions considering that the world itself is full of twists and turns that confuses a gullible teenager via mass media like internet into doing something nasty to herself yet she doesn’t know it yet (Haas et al. n.d.: 405). Once again, this brings the ball back to the cancerous bleaching teenagers are talked into by business marketers but in truth, it is a health hazard. It is quite sensible at this point to advice teenage girls to be quite cautious at whatever products they buy or use.
Another perspective to take while trying to understand the impact of mass media technologies on the body image of teenage girls is too try and understand what girls are willing to do to achieve an acceptable body image (Dittmar, 2009: 1). It is indeed true that the body image is a peer force but at the same time, body image is sometimes driven by peer pressure. Consider a situation that a teenager wishes to join a group of teenage girls but the only thing is to gain an image similar to theirs and this is always happening in the United States where teen girls want to join a peer group like the cheerleading squad of girls. In order to do this, a teen girl is ready to lose weight in large volumes and first and at this point, the teenage girls are more gullible than ever. It is at this point that they go over the internet looking for extreme make-over for themselves and whenever a product that might enable them to gain what they want is advertized on the big screen, they are quite attentive.
At times, adolescent girls are willing to put their health at risk in order to lose weight and gain a petite body frame which is in fact what most teens desire considering that overweight and obese girls are stigmatized. This phenomenon is quite surprising for it affects a huge percentage of teenage girls. This is a very serious matter in the sense that the media publishes remedies to lose weight fast and a gullible adolescent girl will indulge in it without understanding the repercussions (Brown and Dittmar, 2005: 1088). For instance, the remedy might involve health degrading activities like fasting in order to reduce body fat and in the end the result is simply being malnourished.
It is agonizing to see teenage classified as having anorexia nervosa, a condition where one vomits everything after a meal. This condition is really disheartening considering that the cause of this condition is usually psychological to the extent that the teenager believes that eating food makes one to gain weight and fats. As a result, the child deteriorates physically to an extent that she is emaciated. This is usually a belief that is instilled in young minds by the media which in the end only posts negative results to the teenage girl. The biggest problem with teenagers is that they always want to do or achieve something using the shortest yet quickest way or method and at times easiest. The problem with these short cuts is that the results are unpredictable. The end result is always that they are at the receiving end of a bad product’s negative impact on their health and sometimes they do not get the desired body image as the advertisements on the mass media claimed.
Teenagers always learn through the hard way in the sense that they do not always know that something is bad until it happens to them or someone close them. This is attributed to the fact that teenage girls are as gullible as a child and they need to be watched out for. The best solution is to advice the girls not to be affected by their images in the sense that it is the ideal body image they are after but to achieve it calls for very serious and dangerous actions. In addition, if it is important for a teenage girl, the adults in her life should be willing to provide guidance on how best to achieve the goal she wishes without putting her life at risk. For instance, one should always understand the health risks that a product poses on one’s health before using it in order to avoid a catastrophe in the form of allergic reactions or even cancer. In addition a parent has to advise a girl on how best to lose weight like exercising or modifying diets but not through extreme measures like fasting or food denial.
In truth, teenage girls need to be aware that health is important in order to achieve a healthy body image. With that in mind, teenagers should avoid meaningless groups that require extreme actions like the losing of weight or bleaching one’s skin with unknown products that might be catastrophic to one’s health that one has learnt from the media. In addition, teenagers should be advised on what to do best in order to avoid health problems such as cancer or adverse weight loss. The results of these measures that teenagers use in order to gain a desired body image for oneself are usually not good. The best recommendation however is that the media technologies that provide this insane advertisements be stopped or rubbed off immediately in order to stop teenage girls from picking such matters up.
As matters go, teenage girls are still children and they do need guidance because for one fact, they are easily deceived into doing things they are not aware of the repercussions. The mass media is to blame for all these possibilities for young girls to ruin their lives at very short notice. This is true because teenagers are majorly directed by technology considering that there is the internet all over which can be accessed easily through phones and their personal computers. Mass media allows for anything to be posted or delivered to the masses without regards as to what the implications to target individuals in the market. In fact, I would advise the government to introduce policies as well as the international community that would test products for any probable negative impact on health before being allowed to be posted online or on television.
Bessenoff, Gayle R. and Del Priore, Regan E. 2007. “Women, Weight, and Age: Social Comparison to Magazine Images Across the Lifespan.” Sex roles 56: 215-222.
Brown, Amy and Dittmar, Helgar. 2005. “Think “Thin” and Feel Bad: The Role of Appearance Schema Activation, Attention, Attention level, and Thin- Ideal Internalization for Young Women’s Responses to Ultra-Thin Media ideals.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 24(8): 1088-1113.
Dittmar, Helga. 2009. “How Do ‘Body Perfect’ Ideals in the media have a Negative Impact on Body Image and Behaviors? Factors and Processes Related to Self and Identity.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 28(1): 1-8.
Haas, Cheryl J., Pawlow, Laura A., Pettibone, Jon and Segrist Dan J. n.d. “AN INTERVENTION FOR THE NEGATIVE INFLUENCE OF MEDIA ON BODY ESTEEM.” College Student Journal: 405-418.
Johnston, Josée and Taylor Judith. 2008. “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists: A comparative Study of Grassroots Activism and the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.”The University of Chicago Press 33(4): 941-966.
Puhl, Rebecca M., Luedicke, Joerg and Heuer Chelsea A. 2013. “The Stigmatizing Effect of Visual Media Portrayals of Obese Persons on Public Attitudes: Does Race or Gender Matter.” Journal of Health Communication 18: 805-826.
Schooler, Deborah, Ward, Monique L., Merriwether, Anne and Caruthers, Allison. 2004. “Who’s That Girl: Television’s Role in the Body Image Development of Young White and Black Women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 28: 38-47.
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