Quick Facts

Media Theories Tested

In 1995, Jeanne R. Steele and Jane D. Brown Brown introduced the Adolescents' Media Practice Model in their article "Adolescent Room Culture: Studying Media in the Context of Everyday Life." The pair utilized focus groups, questionnaires, interviews and journals they asked teens to keep for information-gathering purposes. Using the aforementioned model, Steele and Brown discovered connections between adolescents' media selection, interaction and application.
Steele and Brown posited that the media is powerful in three ways. 1), children and teens spend more time with the mass media than they do in school or with their parents, 2); the media are full of portrayals that glamorize risky adult behavior such as unprotected sex with multiple partners and drinking; 3) parents and other socialization agents have shirked their responsibilities to direct youth toward less risky behavior (pg. 2).
The two researchers used identity to anchor the Adolescents' Media Practice Model; They argue that teens' identity is shaped by media selection, interaction and application. The typical teen interacts with media many times during the day, and the media's influence can occur through these interactions with magazines, radio and television. This "moment-to-moment interface" between teens and media gives them a sense of how the world really is.
Steele and Brown also included "lived experience" in their model. This idea establishes that adolescents carry their life history with them, and that the knowledge they gain daily through the media is incorporated with the knowledge they already possess (Steele and Brown, pg. 4-5).
The 1995 study revealed that teens actively select the media they pay attention to and choose favorite characters to lust after and emulate. Adolescents interact with media as they debate and analyze the meanings of images and symbols they see, and finally, teens apply these meanings to their daily lives, sometimes consciously, sometimes not (pg. 14).
In 1999, Steele conducted a study on her own that used the same Adolescents' Media Practice Model she helped create. This study examined "Teenage Sexuality and Media Practice: Factoring in the Influences of Family, Friends, and Schools." Steele used content analysis of sexual content in the mass media as well as media effects research on teenagers. Special attention was paid to what occurs when adolescents' media usage intersected with the influences of family, friends, and school (pg. 1-2).
The results showed that television and other forms of media often played stand-in for the parent, especially regarding learning about sexual relationships. Peer relationships were almost as, if not more, influential than familial ties. Teens interact with each other to learn about same- and opposite-sex relationships. As far as school was concerned, Steele found that most teens who participated in the study were dissatisfied with sex-education in schools and that teens learned more in the hallways, from their peers, than in sex-education classes. Many students tuned out information that was repeated from year to year (Steele, pg. 12-5).

Some Positive News

As negative as much of these facts are, there is evidence that the media focus on sex is slowing. In March of 2002, the Center for Media and Public Affairs released the results of a study which showed there is 29% less sex on television than there was two years ago. That figures out to be 11 instances of sexual content per hour in 2000-2001, as opposed to the 16 instances of sexual contents per hour in 1998-1999.

© Copyright 2002 Anne Klockenkemper