Pop culture has tremendously influenced teenagers over the past few years. Teenagers find themselves constantly surrounded by messages and images sent out by popular media outlets that have an effect on their self-image, opinions, and behavior. In fact, teens are exposed to more than 10 hours of media each day, according to Boffone & Herrera (2022). From music lyrics with suggestive lyrics to movies depicting risky behaviors, pop culture can be a major source of influence for the teenage demographic. It has been suggested that this influence can be both positive and negative, depending on how it is consumed and interpreted. Popular culture is pervasive in today’s society; it manifests itself in movies, music, television shows, streaming services, books, and magazines (Boffone & Herrera, 2022). Therefore, this paper will examine the influence of pop culture on teenagers.
On the positive side, pop culture can offer teens a sense of community. It has enabled teens to be more connected with each other than ever before. Social media outlets such as Instagram or Snapchat allow adolescents to share thoughts and experiences in real-time from anywhere in the world. This type of communication strengthens relationships between friends by allowing them to see each other’s updates without constantly being physically present in one another’s lives. Pop culture can be an important source of self-expression and socialization. Through the consumption of music, television shows, movies, and more, teens are exposed to new ideas and can connect with other people who share their interests.
It has the capacity to shape their views, influence their decision-making, and inspire them to take action. Its potential to positively influence young people’s lives is tremendous; it can encourage them to raise their voices against injustice and stand up for what they believe in. For example, popular music often promotes self-expression and social awareness, tackling topics such as mental health, gender inequality, and political corruption. Through lyrics and visuals, singers can bring important issues into the spotlight while providing teens with much-needed support during difficult times.
Pop culture helps to foster creativity and provides an avenue for youth to express themselves. By giving young people access to music, social media platforms like YouTube, art, and fashion trends, pop culture provides an outlet through which teens can explore new ideas and gain a better understanding of the world around them. Through creative activities such as making videos on YouTube or posting artwork on Tumblr and Instagram, teens can find their own unique voice by exploring different interests and discovering what they love.
More so, it can be used to for self-definition and identity. According to Kahlor & Eastin (2017), popular culture is used by youths to explore their forbidden desires, and how they identify themselves. For instance, in the film Sex education, some of the main protagonists use popular media to form their queer identities.
Violence and crime
Popular culture has an undeniable impact on society today, but it has adverse effects, especially when it comes to violence by and against youth. There is no denying that violence exists everywhere across the world and in all forms of media. Many studies have shown that there are correlations between violent content in popular culture and acts of aggression by young people (Nar, 2014: Kahlor & Eastin, 2017). This includes physical assaults as well as verbal aggression such as cyber bullying. It is important to note that consumption of violent media does not directly cause a person to act aggressively; rather, it can be seen as a contributing factor for violence among youth. When exposed to graphic imagery or inappropriate language in popular culture, young people may be more likely to behave similarly in real life situations (Nar, 2014). Furthermore, acts of violence and aggression depicted in popular music and television shows have been linked to increases in violent behavior among teens and adolescents. The impact of this type of media may also condition youth to become more desensitized to violence and crime, which could lead to an increase in criminal behavior (Kahlor & Eastin, 2017).
The prevalence of popular culture can have a concerning effect on crime rates against youth. While it is impossible to attribute any one cause to the rising crime rate amongst young people, there is significant evidence suggesting that popular culture has played a role in this trend (Jewkes, 2015). Popular culture has had a dramatic influence on how young people consume media, communicate with each other and perceive the world around them (2015).
In recent years, school shootings have become more commonplace in both Canada and the United States. This has caused many to look more closely at the role of popular culture in these events. It’s been suggested that films and other forms of media glorify violence, making it seem acceptable and desirably attractive to those committing these heinous acts. Additionally, violent video games, like Mortal Kombat, often feature weapons use which can make it appear even cooler for those who are already on edge or looking for an outlet for their aggression. When examining why school shootings have become so common place in Canada and the US, we must consider our society’s love affair with popular culture.
In fact, according to Sitzer (2013), the famous Columbine school shooting’s shooters was inspired by a video game. They both enjoyed playing video games, particularly Quake and Doom which were very popular at the time, which intensified their interest for firearms and bombs. The 1999 incident caused 15 deaths and 24 injuries (Sitzer, 2013).
Pop culture has a significant influence on many aspects of modern life, especially the sexual morality of young people. Social media platforms and television shows contain themes that can affect how people think about sex in general, and this is particularly relevant for teenage viewers, who may not realize the implications of these representations. For example, it has been suggested that popular music lyrics often contain references to casual sex or promiscuity, something which is frequently glamorized – making it difficult for young people to develop a healthy perspective around sexuality (Fhlainn, 2019). Similarly, pop culture images can contribute to the perception that engaging in risky sexual behavior is cool or desirable, leading to a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections among certain groups.
Self-image and self-esteem
Popular culture has a huge influence on self-image among youth. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to its effects, and can be heavily influenced by what they see in movies, music videos, magazines, and online media. From the brands they wear to their hairstyles and body image expectations, our youth are over-exposed to the unrealistic standards of beauty often presented in popular culture. This can lead to an overall decline in their self-esteem as they compare themselves to these false ideals. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy or depression as someone struggles to meet these expectations. The effects are especially pronounced for impressionable youth who look up to celebrities and public figures in the entertainment industry as role models; they may try too hard to mimic their idols’ behavior or lifestyle without understanding the consequences. These negative impacts on teens’ self-esteem are even more pronounced as social media continues to become increasingly popular among younger generations. As they scroll through profiles displaying an idealized version of reality portrayed by influencers, teens can start feeling inadequate when comparing themselves with these flawless images (Heard, 2021).
Popular culture has a powerful impact on how teens form their identity. The media, advertisers, and celebrities all create an image of who and what is popular in our society. Teens often define themselves by this image, trying to fit into what’s trendy or accepted in the mainstream. For example, if everyone is wearing a certain type of clothing or listening to particular music then teens may feel pressured to conform so they can be seen as “cool”. This can lead them to make decisions that could have lasting repercussions for their future. The influence of popular culture doesn’t just affect teens’ physical appearance; it can also shape the values and beliefs they hold about themselves (Heard. 2021). Popular culture glorifies ideals like success, beauty, fame and money which sets up unrealistic expectations that teenagers strive to reach without realizing they may not be attainable goals (Heard, 2021).
Popular culture has long been a powerful force in influencing the behavior of teens, particularly in the use of drugs. This is particularly true when celebrities glamorize drug use with their own public experimentation or consumption. Teenagers may look up to these figures to an unhealthy degree, making them more likely to try mind-altering substances for themselves. For example, research shows that teenagers are more prone to trying marijuana after seeing it depicted onscreen; this effect is especially pronounced in young girls who view sexualized depictions of drug use by female stars they admire (Motyka & Al-Imam, 2021).
Not only does popular culture encourage teens to experiment with drugs, but it also desensitizes them to the potential dangers associated with substance abuse. Popular culture has a tremendous influence on the way teens use substances today. From rap lyrics to music videos, popular culture often romanticizes drug and alcohol use as part of an “edgy” lifestyle that many teens seek to emulate. For example, many popular hip-hop songs boast about marijuana use and depict it as a fun pastime that can help create a sense of belonging among peers. In addition, some televisions shows make substance use look like harmless fun, rather than addressing its potentially dangerous consequences. These messages can create the false impression in young people that substance abuse is not only acceptable but also cool or desirable (Motyka & Al-Imam, 2021).
In conclusion, the influence of pop culture on teenagers is undeniable. Whether it’s through the media, music, fashion, or other forms of entertainment, teens are constantly being exposed to various aspects of popular culture that can have a profound impact on their lives. The discussed positive outcomes include: create a sense of community, a tool for expression and self-identity, fosters creativity, and an opportunity to raise their voice. However, the negative influences include; leads to violence and crime, drugs and substance abuse, peer pressure, negative self-image and self-esteem, and sexual immorality. Therefore, it’s important to be aware and conscious of how these factors can affect behavior and values in order to guide teens in making healthy decisions.
Boffone, T., & Herrera, C. (2022). Latinx Teens: US Popular Culture on the Page, Stage, and Screen. University of Arizona Press.
Heard. L., (October 28, 2021). ‘’The Impact of Pop Culture on Body Image Among Students’’. FemeStella. https://www.femestella.com/the-impact-of-pop-culture-on-body-image-among-students/#:~:text=It%20changes%20the%20way%20people,much%20worse%20perceptions%20of%20themselves.
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Kahlor, L., & Eastin, M. S. (2017). Television’s role in the culture of violence toward women: A study of television viewing and the cultivation of rape myth acceptance in the United States. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 55(2), 215-231. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354552979_The_Role_of_Popular_Culture_for_Queer_Teen_Identities’_Formation_in_Netflix’s_Sex_Education
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Motyka, M. A., & Al-Imam, A. (2021). Representations of psychoactive drugs’ use in mass culture and their impact on audiences. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(11), 6000.
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Vázquez Rodríguez, L. G., García Ramos, F. J., & Zurian Hernández, F. A. (2021). The role of popular culture for queer teen identities’ formation in Netflix’s Sex Education.