Today's teens and adolecences face an endless barrage of social media, media television, movies, radio, the Internet, magazines, and electronic games, not to mention those advertising slogans that shout out at them from billboards, bumper stickers, and even T-shirts.
The sheer amount of time that they spend with Social media is mind-boggling! Over the course of a year, young adults spend more time on Cell Phones than any other activity, except sleeping. And according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "78 percent of teens use the Web for entertainment and to communicate with friends, as well as to conduct research for school." In fact, some teens say the online environment is more hospitable than many libraries'.
We need to understand the potential harm of media messages, as well as, their attraction for young people. For example, "fast-food ads touting nutritionally poor products have fueled a national epidemic of obesity, which now afflicts more than 15 percent of adolescents", according to the Centers for Disease Control. The media also encourages risky behaviors by showing attractive young people using drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol, or engaging in sex and violence. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study called "Teens, Sex, and TV," three out of four teens say that television has influenced the sexual behaviors of their peers either "somewhat" or "a lot."
How else can we help our youth become more media savvy? By asking them probing questions. For instance, when kids make questionable statements, we need to ask, "Why do you believe that?" By using the Socratic method, we encourage young people to become independent critical thinkers, a key development of adolescence. They also need to be encouraged to use this approach to analyze media messages. To make informed decisions about important issues-on anything from the war in Iraq to the presidential election-young people need to have quality information.