Reality TV, often referred to as harmless entertainment, is destructive to our younger generation. The Girl Scouts Research Institute found 8 in 10 girls regard reality television programs as true to life. Teens and young adults tune in and their impressionable minds seek to emulate the attitudes and behaviors they watch on television. While one might wish to argue free will to watch the programming, or blame parents for not controlling what their children are watching—having been children at one point in our lives we know it is not so cut and dry. Especially in these times when society champions owning the latest and greatest, and staying in the know of what’s trending and what’s hot.
Weekly a cult following tunes in to Love and Hip Hop, Mob Wives, Jersey Shore, and Bad Girls Club to name a few. Most recently VH1’s Sorority Sisters was protested and a nationally concerted effort was successful in getting advertisers to pull their monetary backing from the show and force it to come to an early close. There is no shortage of reality programming on television, however. In fact it may very well be competing with scripted sitcoms and television drama series. Referring to it as reality TV is misleading because the shows do have writers and those who are signed on to the show are rewarded for boosts in ratings, which usually occurs through incited drama or negative behavior. Young viewers are then desensitized to the reality of having problems and seeking help because the stars they are watching often make the dysfunction appear normal or fun. Teen pregnancy reality shows also misinform youth and do not give an accurate portrayal of the hardships of being a teen (and oftentimes single) parent.
Reality programming is destructive to the development of teens and their behaviors. While adults are often more aware of consequences and right and wrong, kids are highly impressionable. Most concerning to me is the violence often seen in these shows. Young viewers do not see what happens behind the scenes such as lawsuits, arrests, and the psychosocial consequences that occur due to the lifestyles the characters lead. For example watching fight videos online has also grown to become a trend. When two reality stars fight on television we don’t see the arrest or legal consequences and no public service announcement goes out warning teens about the dangers in fighting and how serious the injuries can be that they inflict on another person which could potentially be as grave as leading to death. Diversity is important and while we do want to represent a colorful array of story lines and television programming we also do not want to do it at the risk of destroying the lives and mentalities of a future generation.
Quick Facts from the Girl Scouts Research Institute (http://www.girlscouts.org/research/pdf/real_to_me_factsheet.pdf)
Young viewers of reality television are more like to expect drama, negative behaviors, and uphold negative attitudes towards other females.
Girls who watch reality television are more concerned with their physical appearance and attributes than non-viewers.
Young female audiences of reality television are often supportive of lying or bullying to get ahead and view this as being a normal and acceptable behavior.