The Real Effects of Reality TV
Reality TV became a real hype in the early 2000s and remains one of today’s most popular TV genres. But the effect it has on viewers is still widely unknown. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the impact of watching reality TV on girls. It turns out that watching reality programs can have positive as well as negative effects on teen girls.
- The impact of reality TV on girls is two-sided:
- On the positive side, girls who watch reality TV programs feel better about themselves and expect to be respected in relationships.
- On the negative side, watching reality TV increases girls’ focus on their looks and willingness to trade-off other values to become famous.
- For parents and media educators it’s important to be aware that reality TV can have positive and negative effects on teen girls.
How is watching reality TV programs related to the behavior of teen girls?
1,141 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 (mean age: 14 years old); primarily European-American
Teens filled out an online survey about the frequency of watching reality TV, perception of actuality of reality TV, self-esteem, and focus on their looks. The survey also included questions about their expectation of being respected in a relationship, willingness to trade-off other values to become famous, and relational aggression (i.e., gossiping, lying, and being mean to others).
Facts and findings
- Girls who watched reality TV programs frequently felt better about themselves and had a greater expectation of being respected in relationships compared to those who watched reality TV programs less frequently.
- Watching reality TV programs frequently also increased their focus on their looks and willingness to trade-off other values to become famous.
- Watching reality TV programs was not related to gossiping, lying, and being mean to others and the desire to become famous in the future.
- Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (frequency of watching reality TV programs) and effect (behavioral outcomes). The results only show that watching reality TV programs frequently is associated with positive and negative behavioral outcomes for girls.