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Archive for November, 2008

Suicide on the Small Screen

Posted by prof e on November 27, 2008

In recent days two events have focused our attention on the sometimes volatile combination of teen angst and social media websites. The first was the “broadcast” suicide of a 19-year-old man who took an overdose of prescription medications while a chat room of onlookers watched his live web cam stream. Some of the viewers urged Abraham Biggs on–either indifferent to his threats to take his life or willing to take the chance that he was bluffing. Perhaps it is not much different from sidewalk gawkers calling out to a would-be suicide victim to “jump” and “get it over with,” but it still suggests a calloused indifference and sense of alienation that comes from a failed sense of community.

The second event was the jury trial of the woman accused of cyber-bullying in the Megan Meier case. The internet hoax resulted in 13-year-old Megan taking her life after being dumped by a fictitious male character created by the 49-year-old defendant Lori Drew. While found not-guilty of violating the more severe Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Drew was found guilty of three minor offenses including the violation of MySpace’s terms-of-service agreement which prohibits the use of phony names and the harassment of other users. Still, Drew could face up to three years in prison for the conviction. The trial highlighted the fact that we currently have few law-enforcement tools designed to address these new forms of computer crimes, and we’re likely to see new cyber-bulling legislation enacted in response.

These sad episodes of teen suicide raise serious questions about the porous nature of the LCD screen that separates our online and off-line lives. Megan’s response to a make-believe “boyfriend” and forum members’ collective failure to respond to Abraham’s calls for help have this in common–both speak volumes about how we relate to others in virtual space and how those virtual relationships have life-changing, real-world consequences.

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Posted in interactive media, media effects, new media, regulation, Uncategorized, websites | 22 Comments »

Sex on TV Promotes Teen Pregancy

Posted by prof e on November 14, 2008

teen pregnancyAccording to a recent study published in Pediatrics, teens who watch more explicit sexual content on TV are twice as likely to become pregnant or father a child before they reach age 20.This is the first time that a study has actually shown a relationship between exposure to explicit content on TV and pregnancy. This is alarming when you consider that the US has double the teen pregnancy rate of other developing countries. It is particularly troubling now as the country has seen its first increase in teen pregnancy in 14 years.

It’s not just that kids are watching sexually-charged content on TV, but also that the sexual content fails to portray sex in a realistic way. According to one of the researchers, “most TV shows portray sex as having few life-altering implications, such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases” (quoted in USA Today). And while there are many variables that affect a teen’s decision to become sexually active, the researchers indicated that, “TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents’ education level.”

And what were the TV programs that contained sexually-explicit content? Several mentioned included; Sex and the City, That ’70s Show, and Friends.

If this study is replicated and the finding supported, what should be our response as concerned citizens and consumers of media?

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Posted in media effects, research, tv, Uncategorized | 35 Comments »