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Print Media, Society, and the Youth

Print advertisements, billboards, magazines, and newspapers – wherever you go, there is always a sign of print media. Just like taxes, they are certain to be a part of your life whether you like it or not. For once, they have been praised as very effective and successful means of providing the entire population their need for information, news, and entertainment.


But then again, whatever comes in excess usually entails negative consequences. With excess fat and calories means health problems, with too much alcohol and drugs means addiction, and with too much exposure to print media may eventually lead to negative behavior and in some instances, obsession.


Not only do media provide quite an array of information and knowledge for the youth, it is also a great avenue for communication and correspondence. Most of the young generation view print media as very influential in their lives. But the moment they let it influence them, negative consequences start to surface.


Print media are responsible in portraying a rather idealistic approach towards people. For instance, magazines contribute a large part in showing how young women should appear and be seen in the real world. Entertainment themed magazines that include fashion, sexuality, health, and others make sure that their cover page model is perfect enough for everyone to envy.


Realism vs. Idealism

Being realistic isn’t practical when you are in the advertising industry. Advertising is consequently the most dominant force in print media. Showing the face of the actual world cannot convince potential consumers to avail of either the product the advertiser offers or the services to render. What’s needed is to tweak and exaggerate a bit in order to tell everyone that there is more to expect from that certain product or service. Sound confusing? Here’s an example:


When you are selling beauty products and want to advertise in magazines, one of the most important factors for you to consider is getting a model to don and endorse your products. As such, you must find someone who can portray perfection - someone who does not have skin blemishes or anything that shows skin and body imperfection. By doing so, you are telling the public that anyone can also achieve the same perfection simply by using your product. You cannot afford to be honest in advertising (like when you confess there can be allergic tendencies) because the moment you show some weakness or downside on the specific product you’re selling, people will start to have doubts in buying it.


Therefore, advertising’s propensity towards idealism leads to the perception that everyone can break free from reality and aim for what’s seen on an ad image, although most of the time, it’s impossible to attain. By reading an article, books or magazines about losing excess fat and weight in one week, one may push himself to the limit by not eating just to achieve such a feat. As result, he will likely incur health problems in the process.

Among the victims of print media’s negative effects, young women comprise the majority.[i] As print media emphasized the portrayal of sex as a form of entertainment, women have become subjects of lust, sexuality, malice, exploitation, and disrespect. Right about now, most people come to think of them in magazines as having sexy poses and almost bare and nude bodies. People who are responsible for it defend themselves by saying that it is just for the sake of art and advertising. But in reality, it’s actually a manifestation and tolerance for abuse and exploitation.

So what is the significance of this fact to the youth?


Perhaps more than a decade ago, women in their late 20s or early 30s were donning the cover pages of different print media, be it magazines, billboards, books, posters, or newspapers. But recently, there has been a trend of hiring younger ones; some are even barely the legal age. What is very alarming about this is that we are rapidly beginning to accept the idea that teenagers and young adult women can now pose nude or at least sexy in print media. In fact, Amnesty International reported in 2004 that younger women these days are easier to convince and are more willing to pose in a rather sexy or sexual manner because of their vulnerability. It adds that as a result, they are as well very prone to molestation and abuse.[ii] Now, what difference does it actually make when you display sexually themed photos of an 18 year old woman to that of a 17 year old girl? What if she’s just turned 18 a month ago? Does it scrap off the fact that she’s still too young to promote sexuality?


Although we cannot generalize, we definitely foresee a future where pornography is not anymore separated from print media. These two may be related to one another in a way that society is starting to believe that it is alright to allow young women to pose and make money from the adult entertainment publications like Playboy and Penthouse.


Aside from abusing the image of women in society, print media are as well responsible for a lot of unhealthy habits incurred primarily by the youth. Among them, eating disorder is the most prevalent. According to Campbell (2006), the modern society is leaning too much towards a person’s physical look, body figure, and weight. This means that a lot of people, especially those who belong to the youth population, are very conscious in trying to get slimmer and thinner. Though this might seem to be a fine objective, the means of carrying it out is rather distressing. Young ones especially women try to imitate what they see in the media particularly in magazines and publications that show models to be skinny and thin. For them, it’s a kind of trend that will make them go with what’s popular and stylish. They can go to the extent of starving themselves to death just to attain a lighter weight and slimmer body figure.


Accordingly, a recent study targeting a group of young women found that half of the number of respondents thought less of themselves when it comes to being confident (Hitti, 2006). Because what they see in the media is not a representation of them, they cannot help but think that they are not normal and are inferior to others. And of course, this isn’t true. They have this kind of mentality because of the standard created by the media.

To sum it all up, print media is like a very big blanket that tries to cover the reality around us. Although they are credited with the spread of information and communication, they too are responsible for bending and exaggerating that same information and communication to project a kind of image that may or may not influence a person. But one thing is for sure, the youth is the one who’s getting all the negative consequences of it since they also are the most vulnerable ones. As of now, there is really no surefire and immediate solution in order to stop print media negative effects. The least that we can do is remind our young ones to keep their emotions and behavior in check whenever they come upon a reading material again.



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