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Effect of Twilight on Teens

Is Reading Twilight Bad For the Teenage Brain?

Last week scientists, authors, and educators met to discuss how books and movies affect teenagers' brains, and the Twilight series was the number-one offender.

It's not the first time its abstinence-until-marriage message was questioned or its acquiescent protagonist, Bella, was called a bad role model, but this new round of scrutiny makes it seem less like a parental delusion and more like a problem. "If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the Twilight books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman's position as an independent creature," said Maria Nikolajeva, a professor of literature at Cambridge University.

Researches know the teen brain processes information differently than adults; however, they don't yet know in what way. They're clearly more susceptible to influence. Unlike adults, they lack the reality-vs.-fiction filter, which allows them to become emotionally entrenched in fiction while older readers remain spectators.

There is one silver lining for the over-500-page books: reading longer novels improves the brain's ability to pay attention to visual material for long periods of time.

Join The Conversation
soulsearcher83 soulsearcher83 6 years
The author is a mormon that went to Brigham Young University, where they are bred to believe that getting married young and having as many children as you can is "God's way". Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the books but there were times that I was annoyed by the overdependence of the characters on eachother. If I had a teenager reading it, I would have a talk with that teenager about what is healthy and appropriate in a relationship. Obviously these books are fiction but the teen mind is not as discerning as the adut's mind who reads these for enjoyment.
alaisa alaisa 6 years
The issue I have with the whole Twilight thing is Bella's death wish. Not to mention the whole "jumping the shark" thing in the last book of the series. I felt that the characters were so unbelievable. While waiting until marriage for sex isn't a bad idea, it's pretty unrealistic in this day and age. I agree that Edward's controlling behavior and his rages and sulks are definitely not things that should be glorified. Honestly, if you look at their relationship and the way Bella behaves, it's stereotypically abusive- she lies to her family and friends, is closed off from them all, wraps herself completely in his needs and family drama... And wants to die to keep him. How does that make sense?
michelle-c42934 michelle-c42934 6 years
I agree, Edward is super creepy. I think Bella is the typical awkward girl that many young girls can identify with and the amount of attention she receives from Edward is addictive. I think some girls might think his sort of behaviour is normal and allow themselves to be controlled. I think its quite awful when Bella puts herself in dangerous positions to 'see' Edward, when I read it I felt like there were probably a few vulnerable girls out there who might interpret it to mean self harm. I don't know if it's bad for teenagers, but it is a load of trash.
marcied23 marcied23 6 years
very well put little sister read every twilight book in like a week or so...this is the same girl who would only read magna graphic novels, now she reads more full length novels and is totally into hanging out at barnes and noble to pick out new books. i've also read the twilight books (i had to know what my sister was getting into) and while i believe that meyers writes at a third grade level (at best), overall it's up to the parent's and other adults to actually discuss what with their kids what they read about or watch on tv, a book or movie can only have so much influence.
cotedazur cotedazur 6 years
What worries me is less the subject matter and more how poorly the Twilight books are written! I hope teens/young adults are not reading it and imagining that it is great literature just because it's a bestseller.
xxstardust xxstardust 6 years
I work with middle school aged kids, mostly girls - and Twilight is HUGE. I sat all summer and listened to girls sighing over how wonderful Edward is, he's so great and amazing and if only REAL guys could treat their girlfriends that way .. how much they wished for a boyfriend who would protect them and take care of them all of the time like that. It really made me sad, because so many of the girls I worked with really are setting up that kid of emotional relation and dependency as the ideal for love. Abstinence isn't a bad message at all, but that kind of controlling relationship as a desired ideal does make me worry for some of these girls. Do I think it's totally shaping their ideals for relationships? Definitely not - we all know that some of our biggest ideas on appropriate relationships come from what we see modeled by the adults in our lives at that point, but the media does play a role and I think it's important to discuss the inappropriate features of Edward and Bella's relationship with your younger tween/teen girls. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening as often as I personally would hope - I see a lot of ADULT women romanticizing their relationship and dependency patterns in what I would consider to be an unhealthy or inappropriate way. I don't love Twilight, at all ... but I do have to mention one of the high points in my summer - I had a camper (who is a 12 year old 6th grader) who decided to start reading Emily Bronte because they were Bella's favorite books in Twilight. If Twilight - as poor as I may happen to think it is - is acting as a springboard to get girls more interested in real literature, maybe it has more potential and value than I had previously considered!
stephley stephley 6 years
Silly Betty, he's not from the 17th century - he's around 108. So maybe he lived down the street from Henry Ford.
runningesq runningesq 6 years
HA @ Bella makes Juliet look like a raging feminist. Nicely done. And Renee: It's hard to really understand your comment, but HP and Twilight and very, very different books. HP is literature - it has the hero with the tragic flaw (well, sort of), allusions to mythology, good v. evil, etc. These books will certainly end up in the cannon.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
I've never read any of the books or seen the movies, but I get the general idea of what they're about. I would worry about lonely girls reading only Twilight and thinking that's a realistic relationship. Like anon 12 said the girl's background really influences how she interprets the message she's given. Off topic, but he took the engine out of her car? Isn't he from the 17th century? How does he even know how to remove an engine?
mloft72 mloft72 6 years
I haven't read the Twilight series. However, I did read the first of the books of what became the True Blood series. I thought I would enjoy it. Instead, I found the relationship rather creepy and pitied the girl. If I had a daughter, I would not mind her reading Twilight as long as she was reading others things. And, I would make sure she understood that anyone who is controlling is not worth being with.
starbucks2 starbucks2 6 years
I haven't read the book nor seen the movies, so my opinion is based on what others have told me, but I do believe these books send a very bad message. I wouldn't mind if my daughter wanted to wait til marriage (actually I kinda think I do...weird...but I would want her to wait a bit ;) But that Edward seems creepy! And I agree with bransugar, I think it's so disturbing how women my age react to these books.... I do think it's good that it incourages many young girls to read, though. I bet many of them keep on reading other stuff afterwards, which they probably wouldn't have done otherwise! So if my daughter ever read a book where I was concerned about the message, I would just make sure I encouraged her to read other stuff as well...preferably stuff about strong women and healthy relationships!
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
To single out Twilight in a world where teenage females are bombarded with various images and "ideals" that are impossible to meet is a little ridiculous. There are things I find much, much worse than Twilight to influence young girls. I read the Twilight series and loved every silly moment of it. It's vampire fiction. It's fluffy. It's fun to read. Not a whole lot more to it than that. I might not be a teenager anymore, but I find other things much more disturbing to my mental state as a young female than vampire fiction. And I can remember a lot more things that influenced me when I was a teenager than I think I would have been by reading Twilight then.
janneth janneth 6 years
Teenage girls love this book, but to think that they would embrace Bella's philosophy just because they like the Twilight series is ridiculous. Teens are much too savvy for this. These books are one influence, and so are TV shows, films, music videos, video games, etc. The great thing about these books is that girls are reading long books, and actually doing deep reading which is so difficult for young people today. Intelligent people read a variety of fiction.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 6 years
Its a book. Its fiction. It is for entertainment. It is NOT a textbook for young girls to follow so let's just read it, enjoy it and get on with our lives :)
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 6 years
The author is a mormon, of course that's the hidden messages. I don't think an abstinence message will do a lot of harm, though. Like the others said, I'd be more worried about the book promoting sick controlling relationships. Nothing about it is freaking romantic.
renee29 renee29 6 years
the are far worst books then twilight look at harry potter books make believe
renee29 renee29 6 years
it just a book that all a fake book at that
bransugar79 bransugar79 6 years
I think the abstinence message is definitely the least of worries about this relationship. The uber controlling nature of Edward and the mindless acquiescence of Bella is so much more disheartening. The fact that teenage girls think a controlling isolating partner equals true love confuses me. What confuses me more is that there are grown women who look to this series as the ideal of romantic love.
stephley stephley 6 years
If my daughter took these books seriously, I'd be very concerned - they do celebrate some of the creepiest behavior ever, and Bella makes Juliet look like a raging feminist.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 6 years
And to clarify I was borrowing the term "conservative values" from the article. Even though I consider myself liberal I don't think teaching conservative values necessarily makes a book bad.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 6 years
I can tell this discussion is going get ugly already. Umm, I won't definitely say it's bad for their brains just because the books endorse conservative values. There are far greater influences on teen's opinions, like their friends and family. I will say that it worries me when girls try to defend some of Edward's creepier actions i.e- "he took the engine out her car because he loves her and wants to protect her." In addition to there being far better ways to protect someone, it pains me to think that people believe that just because someone loves you they have the right to control you.
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