Media Influence on Society and Behaviors

Media Influence on Society and Behaviors

Today’s media-driven society has witnessed immense developments in the variety of media tools for communication. The manner in which people are hooked to media in the present era is unprecedented; parents, the youth, and children alike all exhibit great addiction to digital media. With parents using new technologies to soothe their restless, moody children (Kowalski, 2016) and adolescents spending at least 7 hours day on electronic media (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015), it is important to explore what exactly is so addictive and entertaining about the media, and more significantly, the short and long-term impacts of this heavy media usage on individuals and society. Concerns have been raised regarding how media is affecting people, especially children and adolescents. The widespread perception is that media has adverse effects on society, particularly from the perspective of people’s behaviors: some psychologists equate the effects of extreme, uncontrolled use of digital to consuming cocaine (Denworth, 2019). Much as the media is an effective tool for building relationships, the strong link between depressive behaviors, disordered eating, and gun violence among young people is an indicator that media negatively influences society and behavior.


Given the pervasiveness of media, it is important to study how society and behaviors are influenced by media. It has been established that children begin forming behaviors when they as young as 18 months old, an age where most children can discern the events taking place on television. According to Dave (1999), at 18 months of age, children are able to mimic most actions seen on television. This observation has vital implications on child development, especially considering that children learn more through imitation as opposed to reflection (Merskey, 1996). For adults, certain behaviors are also shaped by the media. For example, purchasing behaviors as well as diet, body image, and mode of dressing are largely influenced by media advertisements and images (Merskey, 1996). On the same note, mass media proves to be an effective tool for fostering healthy behaviors, thereby making significant improvements in public health (Hong & Kim, 2019). Based on the above, it is clear that media has both positive and negative impacts on society and behaviors.

The media has been described as the primary social agent across many societies worldwide. There is no doubt that much of people’s working time and leisure is invaded or rather occupied by the new media (Lopez-Guimera et al., 2010). It is quite surprising learning that as opposed to the past where institutions such as schools and the family unit were considered to be the principal sources of education together with socialization, the media today is the principal influencer of attitudes, values, and norms. The problem lies in the fact that in most instances, the image portrayed in the media about the world is distorted (Lopez-Guimera et al., 2010). Examples include thinness, food, gender roles, and drug use; all these make people, especially adolescents and children vulnerable to the misleading information.

Literature Review

Addiction to, and excessive use or arguably misuse of, the media is a real problem in the society today. Many people today are constantly online, and ownership and usage of social media accounts is regarded as the defining feature of the young generation. According to Henzel and Håkansson (2021), 90% of youths worldwide actively use social media on a daily basis. For many parents and caregivers, gadgets such as tablets, iPads, and smartphones are the quick fix to moodiness and restlessness among their children. As Kowalski (2018) observes, most parents are very quick to hand over these gadgets to their children as a way of keeping them busy. The heavy usage of media, particularly digital media, is not reserved to children and young people; with an estimated 95% of adults in America using smartphones (Denworth, 2019), it is evident that any impacts that media has, both positive and negative, apply to all people regardless of their age. Researchers and scholars have explored the different ways that media technology is used in the contemporary society, and most of the findings lean towards the idea that media influences society and behaviors more negatively than positively.

The media has undergone significant developments, greatly influencing actions within the society and inspiring social change. Sociologists agree that the media is a powerful force shaping social imagery as well as understanding in contemporary societies (Deragon, 2008). What this means is that the beliefs and values guiding behavior within society is largely shaped by the media. The information and images portrayed in the media are, in most cases, perceived to be the conventional and acceptable way of life. This view is supported by the social comparison theory, which postulates that an individual’s self-worth is determined by standards that are defined by highlights and/or images often portrayed by the media (Sidani et al., 2020). In other words, the media gives very power first impressions that inform people’s behaviors and thinking.

Positive and Negative Impacts of Media on Society and Behaviors

The widespread view is that media generates negative and potentially damaging influences on society and behaviors. Numerous examples are cited in support of this argument. For instance, media exposure and usage is said to be a major contributory factor to the growing incidence of psychological problems, notably anxiety together with depression, among young people (Shensa et al., 2018). This is because extreme usage of the media causes sensory overload, which leads to depletion of mental energy and consequently explosive behavior (Kowalski, 2016). At the same time, spending too much time on computers, television, and cell phones may overstimulate children, causing difficulties with stress management and mood regulation. Similarly, uncontrolled use of media among children is cited as one of the drivers of violent behaviors. Dave (1999), modern-day mass media replicates techniques for soldier training, which inspire the high rate of violence as well as homicide witnessed in schools together with communities. Precisely, video games that are seen as entertainment for kids may actually end up modeling these kids into violent, killer adults.

Besides being a powerful trigger for violent behaviors, depression and anxiety, the media influences behaviors and attitudes that could have far-reaching negative health implications. A good illustration is the issue of disordered eating among females. For a long time, television and magazines have portrayed thinness as the ideal mark of beauty for females (Lopez-Guimera et al., 2010). This is a major driver of unhealthy behaviors aimed at weight control, which sometimes go as far as induced vomiting, use of laxatives and diet pills (Lopez-Guimera, 2010). Arguably, most of these behaviors are extreme and could have life-threatening and serious health complications.

The media has also led to development of unconventional behaviors that affect quality of life not only for individuals but also families and the society at large. A research conducted by Thadathil and Limaye (2016) revealed that habits such as logging on to social media during critical moments such as prayers and meals is a common practice. Likewise, most social media users no longer care about interruptions by incoming messages during meetings, crisis times, and exams. This may mean that in the contemporary society, crucial matters such as spirituality, academic achievement, and family time are at stake due to interference from social media.

The above points create the impression that in the modern society, media is a generation destroyer. However, it is only fair to highlight some of the positive impacts that media has on society and behaviors. To begin with, media, particularly social media, has been found to boost social capital in that it allows greater connectivity between people, thus creating stronger relationships (Denworth, 2019). Secondly, disagreements exist over whether or not social media is a key predictor of depressive behaviors; some authors believe that people who are addicted to social media may be having mental health issues (Denworth, 2019). Most importantly, there is the view that social media confers meaning and happiness to users (Denworth, 2019). These are valid counterarguments that must be taken into considering when assessing the impact of media on society and behaviors.


Having established that media has mixed impacts on society and behaviors, and further given that digital media has become ubiquitous in today’s society, there is need to ensure that the negatives do not outweigh the positives. To reap the most out of media, the following recommendations are made:

  • Parents and teachers ought to supervise and monitor the use of media by children and teenagers.
  • The society should be educated on the proper use of media. This suggestion is based on the finding that much as media is pervasive, individuals have absolute power to control the kind of content they consume on media. Individuals make choices on which television programmes or newspaper articles to watch or read (Deragon, 2008). With this in mind, it would be helpful to educate people on the kind of media news or information that is highly to harm them.


It is true that decisions on what to watch, listen to or read are personal decisions that are within the power of the individual. However, the ability to make sound choices may be compromised especially in a world where individuals have access to a wide variety of information, thanks to the media. For young people who learn mostly through imitation, filtering information could be difficult unless guidance is provided. Although media- precisely social media- is effective in building relationships, too much use of media could lead to unhealthy behaviors. Some of the behaviors and undesirable impacts identified in this research paper include depression, anxiety, violence, disordered eating, and gun violence.


Dave, G. (1999). We are training our kids to kill.

Denworth, L. (2019). The kids are all right. Scientific American321(5).

Deragon, J. (2008). What is the influence of media?

Henzel, V., & Håkansson, A. (2021). Hooked on virtual social life. Problematic social media use and associations with mental distress and addictive disorders. PloS one16(4), e0248406.

Hong, Y., & Kim, S. (2020). Influence of presumed media influence for health prevention: How mass media indirectly promote health prevention behaviors through descriptive norms. Health Communication35(14), 1800-1810.

Kowalski, J. (2016). What is too much screen time doing to our kids’ mental health?

López-Guimerà, G., Levine, M. P., Sánchez-Carracedo, D., & Fauquet, J. (2010). Influence of mass media on body image and eating disordered attitudes and behaviors in females: A review of effects and processes. Media Psychology13(4), 387-416.

Merskey, H. (1996). Influences of the media: a powerful what?. The Lancet347(8999), 416-416.

Nesi, J., & Prinstein, M. J. (2015). Using social media for social comparison and feedback-seeking: Gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology43(8), 1427-1438.

Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Dew, M. A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., & Primack, B. A. (2018). Social media use and depression and anxiety symptoms: A cluster analysis. American Journal of Health Behavior42(2), 116-128.

Sidani, J. E., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., & Primack, B. A. (2020). Associations between comparison on social media and depressive symptoms: A study of young parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies29(12), 3357-3368.

Thadathil, R., & Limaye, S. (2016). Influence of social media on behavior patterns. International Journal of Engineering Research & Technology, 4(27), 1-4.

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