With entertainment content continuing to devolve amid the ramping up of sexual and violent content, a new study about teens’ relationship with TV shows and movies might shock Hollywood elite.
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The Center for Scholars and Storytellers (CSS), based in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, surveyed 662 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and yielded intriguing findings.
“Teens resoundingly rejected aspirational stories,” the study reads.
Just 4.4% of young people said they wanted to view entertainment with these themes, storylines that tend to revolve around the achievement of wealth or fame — or those living within those paradigms.
According to researchers, teens today are much more in tune with authentic storytelling.
“Our findings indicate that today’s teens want to see authentic, inclusive, and positive storytelling that reflects their full lives, including their families,” the report read. “American adolescents reported that they valued media that reflected what they knew about the real world, but they were also interested in the lives of people different from themselves (perhaps from other cultures).”
It continued, “Teens seemed to want their media to reflect a world characterized by genuine diversity and uplifting experiences.”
In fact, teens were most likely to cite wanting to have fun or escape when watching TV or movies (37.8%) or seeing content that addresses real issues (21%).
Respondents were also given a list of 15 topics and were asked to list the types of themes they would want to see. The most cited first choice was a tie between “lives unlike their own” and “hopeful, uplifting stories.”
The second and third most cited were “friendships and stories about social groups” and “superhero stories,” respectively.
What’s even more interesting, though, are the topics teens seemed the least interested in.
Sex and romance came in at No. 7, which far outpaced systemic injustice (No. 11), stories focused on LGBTQ or nonbinary identities (No. 12), partying, drugs, and drinking (No. 13), and climate change (No. 14).
And in an era where so much is being said about parental rights, it seems teens, too, want to focus more on this topic, with themes surrounding “family life and relationships with parents” coming in fifth.
Dr. Yalda T. Uhls, founding director of CSS, made an observation that all creators — and particularly Christians — should more deeply ponder. With storytelling standing out as an inherently powerful and effective tool, young people are among the most affected.
“All of us, but particularly the younger generation, spend more time than ever with images, stories, and information, and this content both consciously and unconsciously shapes our thinking,” she wrote. “This means that the people who tell stories are some of the most powerful in the world, and the work they do matters more than ever.”
This reality, mixed with teens’ interest in uplifting content, offers a real opportunity for Christians looking to spread the Gospel to a watching world desperately in need of Jesus’ healing. As movies like “Lifemark” continue to make a splash, more young people will be exposed to creatively displayed truths.
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