Adolescents and the Media: Medical and Psychological Impact

Article excerpt

Adolescents and the Media: Medical and Psychological Impact. Victor C. Strasburger. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995. 137 pp. $37 hbk. $16.95 pbk.

Parents who think their kids are impervious to today's entertainment and advertising messages won't take much comfort from Victor C. Strasburger's latest book. From sexy soap operas to violent video games, Strasburger presents a concise review of the media teens find most appealing and each medium's effects on teen health and psychology. His conclusion: media messages play a role in many aspects of at-risk behavior and adjustment.

Intended primarily for lay audiences educators, health practitioners, and parents this slim, easy-to-read volume is broad rather than deep. It devotes separate chapters to the major issues of violence and sexuality in the media with primary emphasis on television. Chapter subsections deal with violence and sexuality in movies, print media, and pornography.

The chapter on media violence and aggressive behavior is particularly compelling, reflecting both the complexity of the issue and the most important research. Included is a concise list of eleven circumstances under which television can trigger aggressive or antisocial behavior. "As long as violence is seen as a necessary and acceptable solution to complex problems and the 'good guys' triumph, it is strongly reinforced," Strasburger writes. Other chapters deal with the less-cited but still troubling effects of suggestive rock 'n' roll lyrics, music television, and media portrayals of substance abuse and poor eating habits.

Lay audiences also will appreciate the brief but excellent overview of communications research presented in chapter 1. For parents concerned about the effects of media on their children, the chapter helps to put the threat in proper perspective. In a brief history of the mass media, for example, it notes that comic books, radio, movies, television, recorded music, MTV, and video games all have elicited similar fears. The chapter also explains various theories of media influence, such as social learning theory, and differentiates among various types of communication studies, including attitudinal surveys, laboratory experiments, and correlational studies. …