Girl Scouts’ Research Illustrates Impact of Reality TV

The impact of reality TV on girls In the past few years, reality TV has gone from a novelty to a network staple. And as this sort of programming has become more prevalent, it’s started to influence some viewers, especially tween and teenage girls.

According to “Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV,” a national survey released by the Girl Scout Research Institute, “tween and teen girls who regularly view reality TV accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance.”

Not exactly the best message, right? Yet it’s hardly surprising, given the amount of fighting and aggression that typically takes center stage during a reality TV show—the more drama, the better.

In addition to influencing viewer expectations, reality TV may also perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

“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,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Ph.D., developmental psychologist, Girl Scouts of the USA. “This perpetuates a ‘mean-girl’ stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls. 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.”

Of course, that being said, the Girl Scouts research found that the effects of reality TV aren’t all bad. For example, girls surveyed who regularly watch reality TV are typically more self-assured when it comes to a number of personal characteristics, including maturity, intelligence and humor. They’re also more likely than non-viewers to aspire to leadership and to think they’re currently seen as a leader.

Despite those positive findings, perhaps reality TV would be best in moderation—and balanced with literature and movies that promote messages of empowerment and positivity.

What’s your take on the Girl Scouts research? Do reality shows comprise a large part of your television viewing? And parents, do you limit the amount of reality programming that your kids watch?

Image by leunix via Creative Commons

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