Much like how smoking in movies encourages teens to smoke, alcohol use in movies encourages teens to drink. In a study released by the academic journal Pediatrics teens who had seen more alcohol use in movies were significantly more likely to have engaged in binge drinking, even after controlling for age, affluence and rebelliousness. This is the largest study conducted to date with more than 16,500 students ages 10 to 19 in Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland. Even though the study is comprised of European countries, most box office hits are the same in every country, which makes the study’s findings generalizable to teens all around the world.
Much like smoking in movies, this study raises the same questions and concerns on the media’s effects on teen health behavior. We know that teens’ behavior is highly influenced by what they see in the media, so how can we mitigate the media’s effects on teen behavior? An option is media literacy. Media literacy promotes critical thinking skills about media images and teaches people how to control what images they are exposed to. If media literacy is taught to teens, then they may process what they see differently, which would decrease the images’ effects on their behavior.
Do you think media literacy could be useful in mitigating the effect of the media on teens’ behavior? Do you have another suggestion that may be helpful?
Image attribution: engendeniz via stock.xchng
Many of today’s teens aren’t getting the message that sun exposure is greatly damaging to health and appearance, and may even be deadly.
A prospective study in Pediatrics surveyed assessed sun behaviors and sunburn prevalence in fifth graders in 2004, following up with the same group again in 2007. Over time, liking a tan and spending time in the sun increased, while sunscreen use behaviors dropped sharply.
Existing health communication campaigns are challenged to compete with standards of beauty and perceived attractiveness of tanned skin, especially for this age group. Some campaigns, like the American Cancer Society’s “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!,” may resonate more with parents and adults concerned with sun safety than with young teens.
How can health communicators reach out to youth, particularly at an age when adults may have less influence? Perhaps we can learn from campaigns to prevent tanning bed use by minors; it seems, for instance, that young people may be more motivated by concerns about appearance than by fears of deadly skin cancers.
Do you know of campaigns targeting teens for sunscreen use and/or sun exposure?
Turning on the radio I get flooded with songs about all kinds of bad health behaviors from getting drunk to using illegal drugs to lyrics describing violence. These songs that are idolized by teens are normalizing behaviors that teens (or anyone really) should not be engaging in.
Hearing the airwaves being filled with unhealthy messages, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation are doing something about it. These organizations hosted a music contest to raise awareness of substance abuse among teens. The songs had to accurately depict drug abuse or promote a healthy behavior.
The winning song was composed by two individuals who are currently in rehab. Other submissions were about artists’ struggles with overcoming their drug addictions and coping with the addition of a family member.
The lyrics are musical yet spread an important message about the negative effects of drug abuse. Music is universal and having teens create their own songs can be cathartic and serve as an inspiration to others. Too bad the radio can’t have more songs from these artists.
Photo by: DavidMartynHunt
Do you remember the first time your mom or dad talked about sex with you? I do. When I was around 6, I remember watching the “Look Who’s Talking” movies with my mom. If you’re not familiar with these movies, they start off with conception – talking sperm penetrate a talking egg to create a talking embryo. Pretty radical stuff for a 6-year-old. So radical that I asked my mom what all that stuff was, and she explained to me what the sperm and egg did and where they come from. “Oh,” I remember saying, “So how does the sperm get into the woman?” At which point she blanked and commenced an internal debate: “Should I tell my 6-year-old or not? How much should I tell her? Is she old enough to know?” After a lengthy pause, I conjured up my 6-year-old wisdom and offered a suggestion: “Through kissing?” My mom shook her head yes, and then we went back to watching the movie.
My mom was well-meaning. She didn’t want to tell me something that I wasn’t ready to hear and it have some weird effect on me. But clearly, she could’ve used some help in explaining the birds and the bees. A lot of parents do need help in this area, especially when it comes to talking about heavier topics beyond just the logistics of sex, like birth control and just saying no.
That’s where Planned Parenthood comes in.
Planned Parenthood is releasing a set of new resources that encourage parents to talk to their kids about sex. These resources include:
- An online photo flipbook where people share their experiences about having the talk with their parents and children.
- A light-hearted video that shows parents being confronted with questions about sex from a diverse set of kids. The video’s purpose is to help parents learn how to effectively respond to their children’s questions about sex.
- A “Tools for Parents” section that gives tips to help parents talk with their kids about sex and sexual health, build strong parent-child relationships, and set rules for their teens that help keep them safe and healthy.
- An online social networking experience that guides parents through the steps of developing the messages they want to give their children and gets them ready to have these conversations.
Do you think parents will be able to effectively use these resources to have a meaningful discussion with their children?
With the overwhelming success of 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, it’s not surprising that MTV is turning out another teen reality series using the similar one-hour documentary-style format. I Used to be Fat premiered on MTV on December 29, 2010 and so far three episodes have aired.
Each episode of I Used to be Fat focuses on an obese high school senior who is attempting to lose a significant amount of weight (90 to 100 lbs) over the course of a summer before starting the next phase of their lives. The show pairs each character with a personal trainer who meets with them daily: raiding their fridges, talking with their family members, and putting them through boot-camp style workouts. The show’s focus really seems to be on promoting healthy weight loss through exercise and nutrition, as the characters learn how to achieve and maintain their goal weight through long-term lifestyle changes.
Hearing loss in teens is up in the United States. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that about one in five teenagers has some degree of hearing loss.
Researchers found that in the early 1990s nearly 15 percent of teens had some degree of hearing loss, but a more recent survey from the mid 2000s found that nearly 20 percent were affected, an increase of about a third!
One of the researchers actually was surprised by the findings and thought the number of people affected should have decreased because of medical advances like better treatment of ear infections, according to a Reuters article.
So what’s to blame?