Teenagers and Popular Media

Course Description

This course aims to examine the complex relationship between teenagers and media.  Focusing primarily on the United States context, we will explore the following questions:

  • What is a teenager? What is an adolescent? How are these concepts constructed and related?
  • Why are the teen years an important time of life to address?
  • What types of stories about teenagers do media offer?
  • What economic, social and technological forces shape teen media?
  • How do teenagers use media messages, or resist media messages, as they work to fashion their identities?
  • To what extent do media influence teens’ behavior and well-being?
  • What role do teens play in media production, and what are the benefits and risks of digital participation?

The overall goal of the course is to broaden your understanding of the multifaceted role media play in the lives of young people.  Your reflections on your personal experiences as a teenager will be an important part of the class, as they will help inform all of us about the diversity of media practices and preferences among young people in contemporary times.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • Describe how teenagers have been conceptualized from social and developmental perspectives
  • Explain how and why teens have been targeted as a media market over time
  • Articulate the role of family, peers and institutional structures in teens’ media experiences
  • Define the key debates and explain major findings with regard to media effects on teens
  • Analyze representations of teens in the media and the experiences of teens who produce media

Calendar of Topics

Week 1:  Teen Media Use; Social Construction of the “Teenager”; Youth, Media and Moral Panics

Week 2:  Understanding adolescents: Development, Brains, & Identity

Week 3: How Do Researchers Study Teens and the Media? Who are the teenagers we see in the media?

Week 4:  Social Media & Teens: Selfies, Privacy & Social Status

Week 5: Teens as a Media Market

Week 6:  Media, Romance, Sex & Sexuality

Week 7: Field Trip: Attend Healthy Teen Network Conference

Week 8:  Gender Lessons From Teen Media

Week 9: Work on Film Analysis Project

Week 10: Media & Teens’ Physical Well-Being: Body Image, Eating Behaviors & Substance Use

Week 11: Representations of Screen Media in Teen’s Screen Media

Week 12: Digital Media and Teens’ Mental Well-Being

Week 13:    Teen Media Interactions: Participation or Exploitation?

Week 14: Mobile Media and Teens’ Family Communication