By: MeiLi Smith
When I was in high school, one of my favorite shows to watch was Gossip Girl. For those of you that don’t know, GG is an “inside look” on what life was like for a New York upper east side teenager. Packed-full of drugs, partying, money and sex, the teenagers in Gossip Girl seemed to have it all. Granted, most of the show was nothing more than a glamorized teen soap opera, but the lifestyle of these high school students was hard not to glorify. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to run around New York City, partying with all of my friends and having absolutely no control from my parents?” It made me question my own high school experience and whether or not I was “doing” it right, because the teens in Gossip Girl sure seemed to be living the dream.
It’s no surprise that the media plays a large role in our everyday lives, but how much of the media actually affects us? As a preview to upcoming blogs regarding television, I’m going to look at some previews promoting the upcoming season. Until the fall season is in full force this should provide an insight into what is to come.
According to the RAND Health Corporation, the average teen (ages 12-17) consumes around 3 hours of television a day. That’s a huge chunk of a teen’s day spent absorbing information on how to look, act, and quite simply, how to live. That doesn’t mean all teenagers sit around the TV for three hours every day, but for those that do, it’s easy to see how influential television shows can become. Some of the top teen shows from 2012-2013 were shows such as Pretty Little Liars, Glee, Vampire Diaries, Skins, Gossip Girl, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager (thetoptens.com). Like I said before, Gossip Girl was swimming in sex, and not only were they having sex but they were having sex all the time with no parents to ever be found. It was basically like they were young adults in their early 20s, living on their own and doing whatever they wanted when they wanted.This same adult-centric behavior is seen on shows such as Vampire Diaries, Skins, and evenThe Secret Life of the AmericanTeenager. Even though ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager doesn’t necessarily glamorize sex and partying, it definitely depicts teens growing up extremely quickly and taking on adult roles before they’ve even reached the age of 18. It seems that more and more teen shows glamorize these pubescent adult-lives, making “real-life” high school very confusing.
So are these TV shows influencing teen behaviors? The RAND Health Corporation did a study on the relationship between teen television and the increase in sexual activity and found that “teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate intercourse in the following year.” So this doesn’t necessarily mean that teens will automatically engage in more sexual activity just because of the television they watch, but considering the type of television that is primarily geared towards teens it is more likely that sexual content will be a recurring theme. For example, the CW is a channel that primarily targets a teen audience – such as Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, and newer shows like the Carrie Diaries. Most of the CW’s shows have not had their series premier yet this fall, but their preview reel for the upcoming season is a perfect example of how they hook their teen audience by romanticizing this adult life.
The YouTube clip shows these “teenagers” engaging in risky and dangerous activities, falling in love, and partying- and not just any partying, but extravagant nightclub partying. I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school the closest thing to “partying” was drinking in my friend’s basement and falling in love was nothing more than falling in lust.
The main point of this overview of television shows and their impact on teens was not to show you how terribly bad teen shows are and that we should get rid of every single one of them so teens don’t drink or have sex. If anything it was a chance to gain perspective on how the media, in this case television shows, is portraying teenage life in such adult-like ways. Your teenage and high school years are your one chance to be a kid before you head off to college and have to face the reality of adulthood, which isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be, honestly (and it definitely isn’t how it’s portrayed in the media). So why are we pushing our youth to grow up faster than they need to? After reading this blog, you might leave with more questions than answers, but my goal was to open your eyes to a larger issue with teen television shows and hopefully as this blog progresses we will be able to gain a greater understanding together.
XOXO — Gossip Girl