Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Analyzing the Impact of Drugs, Violence, and Sex in the Media

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Analyzing the Impact of Drugs, Violence, and Sex in the Media

Article excerpt


Objectives: Have students select a form of media that depicts drug use, violence, and/or sexual reference; analyze media for potential influences of drug, violence and sexual content; present the analysis to the class in an effective manner; and respond to questions from teacher and students about the media. Target Audience: Middle school to college.


Popular culture is bombarded with images of violence, sex, and drug use through virtually all forms of media. Music, television, video, and film each demonstrate a continued proliferation of these themes and images. For example, Aiket (1) reported finding at least one act of violence in more than 900 music videos, with hip-hop and hard rock videos showing significantly more incidences than country and R&B. The distinctions in film ratings (PG, PG-13, and R) are proving to be less and less based on acts of bodily violence. (2) Language referencing sex, sexual behavior, and sexual innuendo has multiplied dramatically with the trend toward "reality" programming, particularly on cable television. (3) A 2002 study indicated that primetime television featured alcohol in 77 percent of its programming, tobacco use in 22 percent, and illicit drug use in 20 percent. Films showed the same content at a rate of 93 percent, 89 percent, and 22 percent, respectively. (4)

The impact of media on attitude and behavior has been researched by governmental agencies and private foundations for several decades? Independent research and meta-analyses of research over time have consistently indicated a link between youth exposure to violence, drug use, and sexual behavior and desensitization to those same behaviors. The need for activities designed to allow students to take a critical look at popular-culture depictions of sex, drugs, and violence is clearly a necessity.


As a result of this lesson, the student will be able to:

1. Select a form of media that depicts drug use, violence, and/or sexual reference.

2. Analyze media for potential influences of drug use, violence, and sexual content.

3. Present the analysis to the class in an effective manner.

4. Respond to questions from the teacher and students about the media.


1. Students will need access to their media source of choice outside of class and have the technology necessary (if applicable) to use that media.

2. Class presentations will require the availability of an overhead projector, CD player, VHS/DVD player, and television or projection unit for video.


This project will work best in settings ranging from middle school health classes to introductory college health classes. Middle schools and high schools may choose to eliminate the segment dealing with sexual issues if such issues are deemed inappropriate in their particular school district.


Prior to Class

1. Students will need to select some form of media depicting alcohol and/or other drug use, sexual violence or sexual reference (not sexual acts or pornography), violent behavior, or some combination of the three. The media should be in the form of a music CD, VHS movie/music video, DVD movie/ music video, print article, advertisement, or book excerpt. Students should obtain the instructor's approval of their chosen media piece before moving on to the analysis section of the assignment.

2. Students should be asked to become familiar with a 1-to-2 1/2-minute segment of their chosen media. In the case of print materials, the student should be able to read or explain the material in the same 2 1/2-minute timeframe. This "familiarity" should go beyond simply knowing the words of a song, the location of a scene in a film, or the content of an advertisement. Students should be able to answer the following questions:

* What behavior(s) does this piece depict? …

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