Adolescents in Media Systems
Adolescents live in a saturated and rapidly changing media environment, one that is highly vivid, on-demand, and increasingly interactive and social. Developments in media and its use have fostered dramatic social changes and triggered new risks with them. But, legally, those developments are not that remarkable, a point often lost on those who study adolescents and the media. The wide variety of media that inundates adolescents is what the Constitution deems “speech.” As a First Amendment freedom, speech remains highly protected. That protection is particularly unique in that it challenges traditional views of rights when it comes to adolescents. Notably, for example, this area of law aims to protect the “marketplace of ideas”. Protecting that marketplace, through the free exchange of information, challenges efforts to regulate (typically meaning limit) one group’s access when doing so necessarily limits the access of other groups that could legitimately claim access. This is the fundamental dilemma often associated with adolescents’ media rights. When it comes to adolescents, typical responses to dealing with media predominantly leave matters to parents, and, if not parents, then to the media itself. The constitutional cases involving adolescents’ media rights focus on how minors access problematic media as well as how the media uses information about minors. None focus on the media’s benefits to adolescents. And, cases that focus on harms center on a very narrow set that actually is not necessarily harmful. As a result, the cases reveal few limits on adolescents’ access to media, but they do not necessarily grant adolescents rights to access media.