Media Rushes High School Relationships

From “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” to “The O.C.,” teens are assailed by images of unrealistic high school relationships. It seems as though all teens are either having sex like rabbits or deeply involved with their future soul mate. Yet should teens really be basing their relationships on these images?
Today’s media exaggerates almost anything to get viewers’ attention. Most students are able to make good choices, but when they begin to engage in romantic relationships, they seek models to which they look for guidance.
The media has become a notable send many relationships in school, where many students begin dating for the first time. Health teacher Vickie Christensen said that the media’s various forms can be influential, especially during teenage years.
When sitcoms and reality TV feature powerful messages to their largely teen audiences about supposed “standards” for behavior, these “standards” then manifest themselves in students’ minds.
“You see the sitcoms … where a lot of people don’t realize they’re going for the funnies, not what you really should do,” Christensen said. “These people are usually making really bad decisions. In real life, you should probably do just the opposite of what they’re demonstrating.”
Most students are not actually ready for a serious, intimate relationship with someone by the time they reach high school. However, students still feel that they are expected to have one. This can be attributed to the fact that middle school students aspire to become like the older and more mature “teenage” actors on the shows they watch.
In turn, the process is rushed, and it becomes more about having the relationship itself as opposed to finding a compatible person and forming a meaningful bond. As the media enforces this belief among young students, they in turn inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps.
Guys and girls are targeted by the media in gender-specific ways. Guys are pressured to engage in relationships since they are considered immature or shy if they are single.
“I feel accomplished when I’m in a relationship,” senior Scotty Bohrer said. “When you’re in a relationship, you feel much happier. You have someone you can relate and talk to. It’s great to have someone be there for you.”
Girls feel the need to be attractive from a young age. The popular novel “Twilight,” for example, basically preaches the idea that a girl’s main purpose is to have a good-looking guy attracted to her.
“You’re putting your life on hold by just waiting for this person to come into your life,” junior Jenny Bakos said.
The media may even persuade couples to have sex before they are ready. A study by the RAND Corporation shows that teenagers are twice as likely to engage in sexual acts if they see similar behavior in the media.
“The pressure [of the media] pushes people to do things, and if they have the options open to them, they do things they would otherwise maybe wait for,” Christensen said.
Although there are many factors that determine how individuals handle relationships, the impact of the media is nearly unavoidable. Students must learn that although relationships can be healthy, they should never feel obligated to engage in a relationship. Having a supportive group of friends can also make for a great high school experience. Ultimately, it is up to the students to use their best judgment to decide if they are ready for a relationship and how to be responsible boyfriends or girlfriends.