In today’s generation, high school teens with a cell phone in their hand, a tablet in their bags or a laptop in their room aren’t much of a shocking issue. Parents allowing teens’ engagement in social media and other network technologies can cause deep impact on their behavior and their understanding of what is morally right or wrong. The representation of children in the media and how it changes their lives are one of the top extreme debates discussed in the mediated public sphere today.
The youngsters often try to imitate the behaviors of adults, modeling them as their idols. As mentioned in the book It’s Complicated, by Danah Boyd, the teens continue to occupy an awkward position between childhood and adulthood, dependence and independence. Although kids watch their parents as models while growing up, they tend to follow celebrities like Kim Kardesian, Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber, to imagine the freedom of fame.
To begin, take Miley Cyrus for example, a teenage Disney star turned whatever you’d prefer to call her now. Miley may have lost a lot in the way of respect and dignity, yet it hasn’t lowered the teen’s audience for her music, namely the music video for her most recent single, Wrecking Ball. The fact of removing The Grand Valley State University’s wrecking ball sculpture also is a proven example of the effects on teens of this music video.
The case study I focused as a moral panic for children and the power of media is the comedy movie, 17 Again, starring Zac Efron, who have captured all teens heart in his famous HSM1-3. Kids and teens will definitely be asking to see Zac Efron after watching his first movie HSM targeted to children. The movie is about a man, whose life didn’t turn out as he hoped and wishes he could go back to high school and change it. He wakes up one day and is seventeen again and gets the chance to change his life. The movie focuses on how he struggled to reunite his separated family through a miracle second chance of coming over as a teen in the present.
Although the movie has Zac’s familiar signature moves in HSM, his role in 17 Again has proven that he is moving on and grown up. 17 Again marked as PG-13 is more towards adults, tackling adult issues and showing teens in a not so healthy path.
Despite the general messages this movie gives highlighting the importance of the present life, self-respect and confidence and not taking family for granted; it also shows a lot of inappropriate behavior that parents would not likely want kids to imitate. Zac punching out a school bully and lecturing the class on self-denial as condoms are being handed out by the teacher during his class. Kids in the movie bully each other, party, and make out. The girls in the movie wear sexy clothing and are extremely forward with the boys (one girl hits on a boy promising, “You don’t even have to remember my name”). Do you think after watching this movie, children may question about acts like sex before marriage, getting pregnant, condoms, bullying, partying?
I believe that the media should take this issue seriously because children’s over-exposure to certain subjects can have a huge impact on them. Although it may not be every teen who watches this type of movie turns out to be ethically bad, the chances of a teen following these acts after watching these films are more than before watching them.
It’s Complicated, Danah Bloyd, The Social Lives of Networked Teens, pp17-18