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book is a collection of eleven articles plus two introductory pieces about the
media and teenagers' sexuality. The editors are, respectively, Professor of Journalism
and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a
specialist in teens and the media who lectures at the University of St. Thomas,
and an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Florida. The
authors whose articles are collected in the book also tend to be
communications, advertising, media and journalism specialists although four of
them are psychologists. The editors' and authors' specialist areas faithfully
reflect the balance of the book which is published as part of Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates' Communication Series and more specifically their Communication
Theory and Methodology Subseries.
book's subtitle "Investigating Media's Influence on Adolescent
Sexuality" is a good guide to the theme of the collection. The
introductory article, written by the book's three editors, sets the tone with
an appropriate cartoon and an overview of the importance of the media for young
people, helping to shape both their views of themselves and their ideas of
sexual relationships as well as being a source of factual information about all
aspects of sexuality. Like all the articles in the book, this introduction has
excellent tables and figures, is thoroughly researched and well documented and
has a superb bibliography listing all the books and articles mentioned in the
text. The second article of an introductory nature, "Shaking the Tree of
Knowledge for Forbidden Fruit: Where Adolescents Learn about Sexuality and
Contraception", is a well-researched comparison of the relative importance
of peers, family, school and the media as sources of knowledge about matters
sexual. One of its major conclusions is that there is a need for health
professionals to work with the media to help them promote more responsible
sexual behaviour and this sets the scene for the rest of the book.
book then falls into three sections: Television, four chapters; Magazines,
three chapters; Movies/Music/Internet, four chapters. The chapters on
television covering sexual messages in prime-time, daytime talk shows,
adolescents' perceptions, and media impact on adolescents' body
dissatisfaction, are all full of hard data, excellent analysis, good tables and
figures and an approach which makes them highly suitable for college and
university students pursuing a course in media or psychology. In Britain these
articles would be ideal for A Level and undergraduate students of sociology as
well as journalism, media and psychology. The detailed analysis tends to be
quantitative but there is no lack of qualitative comment.
following section, Magazines, contains three chapters on magazine coverage of
sex and sexual health, using magazines for sex information, and how girls use
magazines to form an image of what it means to be a girl. The first of these three
is heavily analytical and the results are expressed in precise quantitative
terms making the data particularly useful to anyone pursuing similar research.
The other two chapters give us a great deal more qualitative information; their
intention is not to analyse and to reduce the data to quantitative form. The
second of these two, "Girls in Print: Figuring Out What It Means to Be a
Girl", was a real eye-opener for this reviewer as I was constantly
reaching out for my dictionary of slang to look up words totally new to me!
last section, Movies/Music/Internet, is necessarily a bit of a mix. There is an
article on the romantic agenda in the most popular movies that uses a detailed
coding system to analyse the data. The second chapter in this section, "Teens
and Movies: Something to Do, Plenty to Learn", used focus groups and
in-depth interviews to discover how important movies are for teenagers. The
third chapter, "The Sounds of Sex: Sex in Teens' Music and Music
Videos", is basically laying some of the groundwork for future research
into this area. Finally, the last chapter, "Sexual Selves on the World
Wide Web: Adolescent Girls' Home Pages as Sites for Sexual
Self-Expression", was another eye-opener for I had no idea that people
deliberately placed extremely intimate details of their personal life on home
pages on the web. This chapter was the result of a survey which by definition
could only be a fairly random sample and the analysis is of necessity
book as a whole should be extremely useful to a wide range of people. It is
clearly not intended for the general public. However, the critical apparatus
and the detailed data analysis make this an ideal book for teachers of subjects
covering the whole communications/media/journalism/sociology/psychology range
to include in their course reading. For students in those disciplines not only
does the book provide a wealth of data but many of the studies, usually
surveys, are easily replicable so that students could re-run the survey as a
piece of their own coursework and then compare their results with those in this
book. In conclusion, therefore, the book comes with a 'highly recommended' tag.
© 2003 Kevin M. Purday
Kevin M. Purday teaches at Worthing Sixth Form College, in the UK, and is currently a distance-learning student on the Philosophy & Ethics of Mental Health course in the Philosophy Dept. at the University of Warwick.
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