By now, we have all either seen or heard about Miley Cyrus and her performance on the VMA’s. Although most reactions are unfavorable, many reactions include “she was trying to shock us and she did; big deal.” It actually is a big deal, and here is a reason why.
How are children, and ourselves, impacted by what is seen on TV? We are all affected more than we may think. Whether we like it or not, we are impacted by the images, statements, and attitudes of those outside of us. The propaganda effect describes how people are able to be influenced or persuaded by various subtle means. What we see affects our ideas, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors, regardless of whether or not we agree with them. As we are confronted with images, statements, and attitudes, they seep into our minds. Even if we don’t like or agree with what we are seeing or hearing, the information is still ingested by our memories. For example, even if we do not agree that very thin women are the ideal example of beauty, our thoughts or feelings related to beauty are still impacted by those images. Our own preferences for ourselves and others are driven by many of these images as opposed to our own independent beliefs. Regardless of how children and teens felt when they witnessed Miley’s performance, it left an impact on them regarding what is acceptable and what is expected by society. What we see on TV is entered into our beliefs about what is normal and what is okay. For that reason, it is reasonable to be concerned about what is shown on basic cable during a program that is geared toward young people.
What can we do about it?
This is not just about Miley. What is seen on TV and throughout the internet is packed with negative images and messages regarding all groups of people and humans beings in general. We should be active in thought when viewing all media images or stories, not just passively observing them. We should state our objections out loud with an explanation of why for our children. Discussing our beliefs with children creates an alternative for what is absorbed from the media. As they say, “truth is the best propaganda”. The best way to combat negative messages is to provide our own. While watching TV or seeing an advertisement, we can ask older children or teens to come up with their own reasons for why it is healthy or not. We can ask them to come up with alternative methods for the program or advertisement that are healthier, more positive, or more realistic. This is a learning activity, so engaging in a creative dialogue will be more effective than making statements.
We should encourage teens to use critical thinking when encountering shows on TV, advertisements, and the news. Although we won’t control what is shown on TV or viewed outside of the home, we can teach how to identify various strategies and biases within the media so they will not become passive consumers. Being aware does not erase the impact of what we observe, but it can increase thoughtfulness and independent thinking. We have the ability to provide ideas, ways of thinking, and ways of being that align with our ideals as opposed to the ideals that are presented by the media. The trick is confronting our environments and encouraging our young people to do the same.
Young man shocked watching tv image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 28 Aug 2013