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The Effects of Media Stereotyping and Body Image on Young People

The Effects of Media Stereotyping and Body Image on Young People

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TV shows, music videos, advertisements and other media content portray various stereotypes to the viewing public.

Stereotypes are essentially classifications that are promulgated and may influence an opinion about other people based on their culture, race, body type, sexuality, political affiliation and religion, among other things. A stereotype may be created, for example, when only some types of body images or persons of a particular skin tone are consistently used to represent desirable products, lifestyles, appearances or other positive characteristics in media. Viewers may be led to conclude that other body types and representations are negative or inferior.  

Children and young adults, especially, learn from and emulate what they see around them. In fact, even toddlers are known to imitate what they see and hear on the radio, television, and new media.

The role of the media

The media consists, in the main, of radio, television, newspapers, books, magazines and content delivered via the internet. In recent times, the latter has overtaken the others, especially as TV and radio programmes, newspapers, videos, books and magazines can all be accessed online. However, in Jamaica, TV and radio are still popular, providing a wide range of audio-visual content.

With so many different types of content and the volume in which it is available across media platforms, the media must be sensitive and take reasonable measures to protect viewers and users from stereotypes which create negative impressions, especially on younger ones; since this could influence how they view themselves and others around them. This responsibility applies as well to all persons who create and upload content (“user-generated content”) such as videos on YouTube.

The Role of Parents

Parents are also responsible for helping to frame their children’s understanding of the world. This includes teaching the importance of self-love, explaining right from wrong, and helping them to recognise and make good choices. Many studies have shown that, on average, the presence of parents in a child’s life helps them to make better choices as they grow older.

However, this is easier said than done because increasingly, many parents are not capable or sufficiently able to guide their children as they are also young. In 2013, a State of the World Population Report showed that Jamaica had the fourth highest rate of teen pregnancy in the region. Also, from an early age, children are being exposed to smart devices and heavy access to a wide range of content on social media platforms and across the internet.

This places a greater burden on media and the wider society to help regulate children’s access to media. This is one of the roles of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, which it fulfils through a “media literacy” programme including presentations to children and adults across the island on opportunities and challenges in the digital society.

Media literacy focuses on the empowerment of media users. In the case of vulnerable groups such as children and teenagers, the emphasis is on helping them to: develop the capacity to recognise and navigate away from harmful content; understand the impact of media on their socialization and wellbeing; contextualise and make sense of content – taking account of sources; and create and disseminate their own information.

Do you think that negative stereotyping in media is affecting your child? How do you handle it?

If you would like the Broadcasting Commission to make a presentation to your school, PTA or group about opportunities and challenges in the digital society contact us at info@broadcom.org or message us on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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  • Luci Luant

    Media stereotyping does affect children, however no matter how much content blocking the broadcasting commission does, it’s ultimately up to parents to monitor what their children watch because with the advancement of technology, children now a days can crack any code made to block content on the television. Also it’s not just television, most children now have cellphones where they can watch videos on their phone. So while all these restrictions are put in place for our children which does help, parents need to take responsibility as well and monitor what their children watch on tv and what they do online.

  • Joneil Jermaine Alcock

    I agree. Parents have a significant role to play in monitoring what their children consume online

  • Devonnie Garvey

    I love this article!
    The whole issue of negative stereotyping is something that we tend to overlook within our society as Jamaicans, and this often leads to many undesirable consequences. People still seem to be oblivious to how impressionable our young people are. We have a responsibility as citizens to perpetuate positivity, since our young people are the most vulnerable strata of society.
    It’s great to see the Broadcasting Commission herald this change within our society. I don’t have an siblings, nor do I have any kids in my household, but I still take the time to help make a positive impact on children whenever I come across them by introducing them to positive aspects of the media. I have come across kids who are greatly affected by negative stereotyping, from the way they think of their naturally kinky hair, to the way they view their dark skin. It’s an uphill battle, but with the help from entities like the Broadcasting Commission, I’m positive that we can make a huge change and we’ll soon have a generation virtually immune to this kind of negative mental conditioning.

  • Constance Payne

    Of course the media affects my children, and they are grown and well aware of the tactics employed. It affects me, it affects everyone. Advertisers are very good at what they do, and while not all social media influences are bad, many of them give people – especially children – a skewed version of the world. I’m glad the word is getting out that models don’t really look the way they appear on the pages of glossy magazines. I recently saw a campaign put on by a popular soap company that showed a model coming into the studio with no makeup, and the process involved in taking her from plain to air brushed perfection.

    Parents be diligent. When kids are old enough to use the computer explain that you will have their passwords and keep tabs on the sites they visit. Also watch T.V. with them and talk about the things you see. Social media can be destructive or it can be a great thing – if used in the right way.

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