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How Does Society Affect Behavior in Teens?

by Erica Loop

Unless your teen never leaves the house or watches TV, plenty of societal influences can affect her behavior. From the media to peers, an array of societal factors can shape the ways in which your teen acts. While society isn't entirely responsible for your adolescent's every action, the effect of these influences can cause changes in attitudes or alter some values.

Media Influences

Between TV, the movies, online videos and all of the other media sources out there, it's no wonder that these societal influences can shape your teen's behavior for good or for ill. The American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website notes that parents should watch for media influences that include acts of violence, sexual situations, statements about body image, alcohol and drug use, and gender or cultural stereotypes. Although your teen might seem immune to what he the media is saying, some messages can slowly begin to sink in and make risky behaviors such as underage drinking or unprotected sex seem attractive.

Advertisements

Advertising can influence a teen's behavior in multiple ways, including how the child acts as well as her spending habits. For example, the child development experts at the Healthy Children website note that cigarette ads can negatively influence a teen's ideas and thoughts when it comes to smoking. Without adequate adult guidance, ads that feature young, attractive people smoking can make this unhealthful habit seem acceptable or even appealing. Aside from glorifying, or selling, risky behaviors, advertising can also alter the way a teen chooses to spend money. Whether it is mom and dad's cash or an after-school job paycheck, enticing ads in magazines, billboards, TV or in-store displays can make teens think it's acceptable to spend hard-earned money on pricey or unnecessary items such as designer label jeans.

School

The schools, and subsequent social environments, are parts of society that exert a communal influence on teens. Every junior and senior high school setting is different in some way, creating a community that accepts or disregards certain behaviors. This could mean that a child who had certain values or beliefs before entering junior or senior high school might make changes due to the predominant school views. For example, if the popular crowd believes that cool girls shouldn't get good grades, your daughter might start to take up behaviors that lead to poor grades.

Society and Laws

Some aspects of society can have a positive influence. As children grow into the teen years, they become more aware of legal issues and society's laws. Although a younger child might know that stealing money can result in jail time, adolescents have the ability to understand legalities in a more abstract way. This knowledge might help teens to think twice before engaging in risky or illegal activities such as underage drinking, drug use or drinking and driving. This isn't to say that teens aren't going to experiment with illegal substances just because the societal laws say "no," but instead they might think harder about their choices in light of the consequences.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Getty Images