Simon Cowell denigrates a contestant and the world nods, “Yes they were terrible. I’m embarrassed for them.” The girls on Jersey Shore get into another drunken brawl outside a nightclub and their behaviour earns them a paycheck and a book deal. A girl on “My Super Sweet 16” screams at her mom for ruining her life because mom bought her the wrong colour Lexus. What’s the big deal? It’s just TV, right?
A recent study by The Girl Scouts Research Institute reported considerable differences in the way girls who watch reality TV view the world as opposed to those who do not. Although that is hardly a shocking statement, the degree of difference may surprise you.
- 78% vs. 54% believe gossiping is a normal part of a relationship
- 68% vs. 50% believe it’s in the nature of girls to be catty and competitive
- 63% vs. 50% state it’s hard to trust other girls
- The self-image of girls who watch reality television regularly are more focused on the value of appearance — 72% say they spend more time on the outer beauty as opposed to 42% of non-viewers
- 37% believe being mean earns you more respect than being nice (37% vs. 25%)
- 37% believe you have to lie to get what you want (37% vs. 24%)
“Girls today are bombarded with media – reality TV and otherwise – that more frequently portrays girls and women in competition with one another rather than in support or collaboration. This perpetuates a ‘mean-girl’ stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls,” says Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Ph.D. Developmental Psychologist, Girl Scouts of the USA. “We don’t want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them, along with their parents, to know what they are getting into when they watch it.”
When my daughters were younger, I was very conscious of what they watched. I was careful about letting them see movies or TV I thought was too scary or used language that wasn’t age appropriate. As they got older, I’ve allowed them make their own decisions and use their own judgement. I don’t like some of the shows they watch, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” tops my list, but the show has generated some interesting conversations such as whether the show is a portrait of life in the South or a caricature, or the odds Honey Boo Boo will eventually end up on “Jeopardy” vs. “Teen Mom – Season 21”.
This brings me to the point that not everything about the impact of reality TV on girls is negative. Seventy-five percent of the girls surveyed say reality has generated conversations with their parents or friends. A full 68% feel empowered by reality TV and say they feel like they “can do anything” as a result. Over half say they are more aware of social issues and causes than they were before.
As parents, the key is to stay engaged. Be aware of what your kids – sons as well as daughters – are watching. Keep the lines of communication open and have those conversations – even if you’re not on the same page. After all, don’t you want your daughter to strive for more in life than merely keeping up with a Kardashian?
Image source: Blog Magazine