Student Culture

November 14th, 2011


Students today are surrounded by a variety of stimulants in their lives both at school and at home. Pressures to be ‘popular’ and acceptable to their peer groups, the distractions of TV and the Internet, and the prevalence of drugs and sex all detract from student success at the traditional goals of education. How do these stimulates affect student behavior and motivation, and how can schools adapt these influences to promote healthy school environments?

In no way do I believe these influences from media are ‘new’ problems, but they are growing ones. The Parents Television Council (2011) claims that students watch over 4 hours of television a day with 66% of students admitting they felt TV affected their peers behavior. Now, this organization has a goal, which makes it a biased opinion, but nevertheless, television is a major part of children’s lives on the whole. What they see on the TV, moreover, is often concerning. The Kaiser Family Foundation (1999) found

“…more than half (56 percent) of all television shows contain sexual content—averaging more than three scenes with sex per hour. For shows with sexual content, just 9 percent include any mention of the possible risks of sexual activity, or any reference to contraception, protection, or safer sex.” (p. 1)

TV is not alone. Today’s popular music is often full of sexual references, violence, or obscene language. The recent student suicides following online bullying speak to the dangers of social networking sites. Our book speaks to the sexualization of students through the images seen or heard in the media (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, 2011, p. 323).

While it is well documented that students are exposed to these stimulates, it is more controversial the effects they have on them. Whether or not a violent TV show makes a violent youth is not a question there is a definite answer to yet. However, as a teacher there is a responsibility to understand the influences students face today and monitor how they are being expressed in the school setting, particularly amongst peer groups.

Our textbook reflects how important peer relationships are,

“…a teacher sometimes can force young children to obey rules they neither understand nor like, but peers do not have the formal authority to do this; thus children can learn the true meaning of exchange, cooperation, and equity…” (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, 2011, p. 313)

This is a positive side of peer relationships. Students relate and grow with each other from a more similar knowledge and power base. However, there is a side of peer relationships that can negatively influence student growth.  Formal authority aside, peers do possess power that teachers often do not, the power of acceptance. The Aspen Education Foundation (2009) states,

“…interaction is direct, and much more powerful than the influence of teachers and other authority figures. Peer pressure tends to have more of an effect on children with low self-esteem. If a child feels compelled to fit in, the teen may do things that go against his or her beliefs simply to be part of the group” (p. 1).

The terminology used today to discuss and describe this effect of peer relationships, in addition to the mentality of school faculty and administration, is ‘school culture’. Robbins and Alvy (1995) define school culture as “this inner reality reflects what organizational members care about, what they are willing to spend time doing, what and how they celebrate, and what they talk about” (p. 23).  It is then the school’s responsibility to make the school culture reflect learning and cooperation, not the influence of the social world.

Much easier said than done. However, there are a few beneficial ways to begin. Both our textbook and the National Association for Social Workers state that educators need to be educated on the current trends, lingo, and programs. Without being keyed in to the warning signs, there is no way to intervene. It is also important to be conversant in technology and provide safe ways to use social media. Oftentimes it is easy to forget that students are children and adolescents; and that having the ability to operate social media does not mean they have the emotional or intellectual maturity to truly understand what they are doing or the effects it may have. We have often discussed using ‘student language’ in the classroom. In this case it may be beneficial. Ignoring or condemning the influences students see only reinforces the age-old adage that adults “just don’t get it”. Instead use examples, offer alternatives, and discuss consequences of what they see. Teachable moments are something we are taught to utilize and there is a wealth of them being provided by today’s world.


Ornstein, A., Levine, D., Gutek, G. (2011). Foundation of Education (11th Ed.). Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth.

Robbins, P. & Alvy, Harvey (1995).  The principal’s companion.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press

Kaiser Family Foundation. (1999). Sex on TV: A biennial eeport to the kaiser family foundation.

National Association of Social Workers. (2001). Practice Update from the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from:

Aspen Education Foundation. (2009) Peer pressure. Retreived from:

Parents Television Council. (2011). Facts and TV Statistics. Retrieved from:

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