Is television a bad influence on teens?I am trying to help my middle school debate team get ready for their first debate. I'd like a variety of opinions and sources, please! Thanks in advance. :)

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is my considered opinion that, while TV has a potential for neutrality and an equal potential for good (in fact, often exercises both those potentials), it has a presently active influence for harm (and an even greater potential for negative influence that is often fulfilled).

Two specific examples, the first example relates to what I call billycrystalism and the second to something Tolstoy lamented, the shaping of women's roles and attire to align with those of "women of the street." Billy Crystal made a fabulous career out of snide witticism and--coming from him--such are amusing to some and down right funny to others. What is neither funny nor amusing is hearing parents, for example, toss billycrystalisms at their 3-year-olds then congratulate each other for being so profoundly amusing while the child cringes in humiliation, confusion and shame. This is an absolutely true and direct negative influence of TV as Billy Crystal's old movies are shown on TV.

The other is how visual images impact the development of mental constructs of self--this negative influence is confirmed by the controversy in the modeling industry and by national governments implementing corrective measures around the world--that manifest in how girls and women dress, groom, walk, stand, and in general deport themselves and, sadly, it all falls along the same lines as that which Tolstoy lamented (I believe the title in which he addresses this is Family Happiness, 1853.)

Therefore, while TV has a potential for neutrality and even good, its present state realizes its equal potential for harm and has been doing so at an accelerating rate for at least three decades.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anything that repeatedly pushes ideas or situations on people regarding things that are not realistic, or that sends messages to shape the minds of those receiving those messages, needs to be monitored. Personally, I think that television ads and celebrities paint an unrealistic picture of what is "fun," what isdesirable, and what spells "success." It's hard to watch teens emulating people who act not with intelligence but simply with a desire to have a good time, regardless of the possible consequences. Certainly teens make choices: no one makes them act like some celebrities or believe that whiter teeth will make them happy. However, as so many kids are raising themselves, or have parents that believe the same things they see on the tv screen, can we really expect teens to somehow know better?


stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You've already got some well-stated positions for your debate team to further explore!

I'm afraid I think television is more of an influence on all of us, not just teens, than we realize. In an age when communications are becoming faster and more pervasive, constant publicity about television celebrities is unavoidable. Because the content of so much of that publicity concerns negative actions and/or comments and may include pictures of less-than-positive role models, the messages to which teens are being exposed are not always healthy or moral. I hope that most teens (and most others of all ages) are able to discern the true content behind these messages, but I fear some are impacted by what they see or hear about on television.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The media is extremely powerful, and thus, can have a bad influence on everyone, not just teens. I do believe the influence of television is in more subliminal ways, for instance, a teen who sees only thin women in romantic roles may start to feel that they need to be thin in order to find love and be desired. However, I believe that what is shown on television parallels what is happening in society; thus, when a teen sees such things on television it may reinforce what they already believe and what they are already experiencing in their own lives.

That being said, I do not believe that television alone is powerful enough to cause any severe changes in the lives of most well-rounded teens.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe too much TV is a bad influence--mostly in the time-wasting sense--on just about anybody. Teens are easily influenced by many different things, and many people tend to believe, unconditionally, whatever they see and hear. It's just another reason that parents should maintain a vigilant eye on all of their children's actions. I have always been able to use TV as a sort of background to my own reading, studying, lesson planning, etc., but for many people, it's a distraction that interferes with more important needs.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What do you mean by an influence? I think it is possible to argue that everything is an influence on us, but perhaps we can say that we make the meaning for ourselves. I tend to view things like the internet in strictly neutral terms, but it is the use we make of it and that determines whether it is a good influence or not. If a kid spends all day watching violent films, then I think this will not be a positive influence, but in moderation, I don't see any problem with television.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Too much of almost anything can be a bad influence on someone.  Young people are more impressionable, that is true, but I think people tend to overestimate the effect of TV on their thinking patterns and actions.  If a teen watches 9 hours a day, then they are probably neglecting other important areas of their social development.  Exposure to constant violent and/or sexual images and situations probably isn't positive either, but I don't think television itself is a bad influence.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are some sources that may be helpful:

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that teenagers are less influenced by television than they have been in the past. Not much is taboo any longer. Before, when nudity and foul language first hit the television, teens were definitely more influenced by it. Today, not much surprises teens. Given that media is so open, new "ideas" are pretty much gone.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My opinion is that it is not.  I think that people have their values pretty well set by the time they reach their teens.  I do not think that teens will generally watch TV and be so influenced by what they see as to change their values in any significant way.

jess1999 | Student

For me , I believe that television will not have a huge impact on teens , but it could have a huge impact on children . I believe that it will not have a huge impact on teens because we barely have time to watch TV anyways . With all the homework and extra curricular activities there really is not that much time to spend watching TV . Also , we have been taught since young that we should not get influenced by whatever is on TV . For example , teachers would tell us that whatever is on TV is fake . 

ik9744 | Student

Depends on what they are watching. If they're watching something like Spongebob then no. On the other hands if they are watching something that includes, robbing, killing, and suicide. Then yes.

crystaltu001 | Student

I think it is both good and bad for people. It is bad for teens but it depends on what you watch on the television. Some people can watch things that teach them bad stuff or stuff you shouldn't know. It is good because people watch the television for entertainment and for the news.

Wiggin42 | Student

It is a debatable question. It totally depends on the students and what kind of program they watch. It is just a media created for a entertaining purpose. It should be just treated as source of entertainment not as a mentor or role model. Limiting the viewing time and choosing a program wisely can be a positive influence for  teens.

hist | Student
hetvishah | Student


  1. Television makes children violent and aggressive. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is a consensus developing among members of the research community that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs.
  2. Television discourages face-to-face interaction among children or families.
  3. Sitting passively in front of the television leads to weight gain, increasing the chances of diabetes in children and heart disease in adults.
  4. Television programs model undesirable behavior such as drug and alcohol use or unhealthy relationships
  5. Research indicates that students may be less able to engage in formal descriptions of events or objects than their peers in the past. Dr. Rosemary Sage of the University of Leicester’s School of Education attributes this drop in verbal communication skills to an increase in television watching among youth at the expense of communication with their parents or other adults.
glen7565 | Student

I believe that television has become a much less significant influence as there are so many other things to distract them such as Twitter,Facebook and many other social media. These are a great distraction to childrens education capabilities and achievements.


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kinghtalexis | Student

Television today isnt bad, but the amount of tv watching that kids put for can be harmful, the physical activity in form of outdoor games, sports is being replaced by Playstation and with in no time, they grow up to be adults with again a desk job and no physical work. So the tv slot must be taken seriously.

popcorn13 | Student

Can television be a bad influence?? Of course it can be... but can it be a good influence?? YES. Television can be as much a good influence as a bad one but it all comes down to what your watching. If your watching something educational it will most likely be good for you. If what you watch is programs with a lot of abuse or sex it may have a bad effect.