Adolescent perceptions of music television: What is the message?

Sherri Elliott Stover (1991)

Music videos are among the latest innovations that television has to offer and since their inception they have quickly become a part of today's adolescent culture. This medium combines rock music, televised images and the knowledge of commercial marketing in ways that make it both appealing to adolescents and uniquely capable of conveying specific messages. Concerns have been raised about the potential effects of music video messages on the views, attitudes, and behaviors of adolescents. Research in the area has been sparse with much speculation based on content analyses and studies utilizing adult participants. In contrast, through structured interviews, this study considers the perspectives and opinions of adolescent viewers. This exploratory study addresses two questions: (1) What are some of the messages that adolescents derive from the totality of their music television experiences; and (2) What are the perceptions of adolescents with regard to music video's capacity to influence their attitudes and opinions? The findings of this study suggest that: (1) Eighth-grade viewers actively participate in a process of understanding and judging the information in music videos; (2) Within this process, adolescent viewers receive messages from their exposure to music videos. Most notable are the messages pertaining to violence and aggression, social beliefs, and health; (3) These messages are diverse and highly dependent upon the perceptions of individual viewers. Adolescents' perceptions of music video content are guided by the adolescents' own personal interests, values, and beliefs about the world; (4) Adolescents form opinions of music video content and music video artists based on a perceived consistency between the video material and their own intrinsic belief systems and values; (5) Aside from information about popular culture and an awareness of societal issues, adolescents do not view music videos as having the capacity to alter their attitudes or views; and (6) Although adolescent viewers are active participants in the viewing process they are not fully aware of all the messages they receive from music videos. Adolescents tend to underestimate the potential contribution that repeated exposure to music video messages may have in reinforcing or changing their views.