Teenagers are the group most strongly influenced by popular culture (more commonly called pop culture).
What exactly is popular culture?
According to Wikipedia English: “Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred through an informal consensus within the mainstream of any given society.”
Thesaurus.com refers to pop culture as a “modern way of living.”
Effects on teens
Not only are teens strongly influenced by pop culture but it affects them on many levels. It affects them cognitively (how they think), emotionally (how they feel) and behaviorally (what they do). The last decade has seen exponential growth in the media – with the advent of the internet, mass media has almost been overtaken by social media. The teens have latched onto social media with intensity and this has had both negative and positive effects.
How teens interact with the world around them
Mass media covers television, radio, magazines, newspapers, cinemas and all around advertising (eg: billboards with celebrity endorsements). Movies like the Twilight saga have rapidly become cult hits amongst the teens. The growth of reality television has birthed the new celebrity – think of The Kardashians and/or Jersey Shore.
Social networking services like Facebook (founded in 2004) and Twitter (founded in 2003) have rapidly shifted the way teens communicate and interact. Social media has revolutionized the way teens meet, interact, read, shop and play games. Even the way they discover music has changed – with the advent of Youtube (founded in 2005).
According to Laura E. Berk, author of the text book ‘Child Development’ – teens have a strong urge for peer acceptance. Peer acceptance refers to likeability – the extent to which a child is viewed by a group of age-mates as a worthy social partner. These social media platforms allow teens to connect and interact with others who share their likes and dislikes. It is also happening on a grander scale as you are able to meet many more people online than you would offline (due to geographical constraints for example).
Art has always been an intrinsic part of human nature, an honest means of expressing the self. Body art goes back centuries, however, lately there has been an explosion of teens being very interested in tattoos, body-piercing and hair decorations. This is by no means unrelated to all the celebrities spotted sporting new tattoos all the time. Body art allows the teens to express themselves.
Popular Culture Icons
The most popular pop culture icons of today are artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Robert Pattinson. Lady Gaga, a prolific artist is known to create and re-create herself: this offers the gift of possibilities. Justin Bieber, a teen himself, used the social media platform of Youtube to launch his super successful career, again showing other teens that anything is possible. Robert Pattinson’s role in Twilight is of someone ‘different’, an outcast of sorts – many teens identify and relate to these feelings.
The relationship between teens, pop culture and the media (mass and social) is deeply symbiotic – and here to stay. The teens of today have grown up with mobile phones and internet access, information always at their finger-tips.
Popular culture continues to affect teens in both positive and negative ways. On the other hand, teens also affect pop culture. The sophisticated teen of today is the creator and innovator of the future.