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Real to Me: Reality TV Tip Sheet for Parents

Real to Me: Reality TV Tip Sheet for Parents

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Published by Derek E. Baird
Reality TV has become staple entertainment for young people and adults alike. In our survey of more than 1,100 girls around the country, we found significant differences between those girls who consume reality TV on a regular basis and those who do not. Of girls surveyed, regular reality TV viewers differ dramatically from their non-viewing peers in their expectations of peer relationships, their overall self-image, and their understanding of how the world works.
Reality TV has become staple entertainment for young people and adults alike. In our survey of more than 1,100 girls around the country, we found significant differences between those girls who consume reality TV on a regular basis and those who do not. Of girls surveyed, regular reality TV viewers differ dramatically from their non-viewing peers in their expectations of peer relationships, their overall self-image, and their understanding of how the world works.

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Published by: Derek E. Baird on Nov 01, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Tips for Parents
/ Girl Scout Research Institute
Tips for Parents
Real to me: Girls and Reality TV
/ Girl Scout Research Institute
Reality TV is a popular orm o entertainment or young people today. While this may seem like a benignphenomenon, our research suggests that girls who view reality TV on a regular basis are impacted signi-cantly on personal and social levels. Regular viewers seem to have more extreme expectations o how theworld works and relate to their peers dierently than do those who don’t watch as much. Reality TV canalso serve as a learning tool, inspire amilies to explore new interests and activities, and encourage youngpeople to get involved in social causes.
Tip #1:
TV watching is the number-one activity or girls, but they don’tnecessarily want it to be this way. Use this opportunity to createalternatives or your entire amily.
Watching TV takes up more time than any other activity or the group—girls ages 11 through 17—we studied.On average these girls spend 12 hours a week in ront o the screen, which outpaces the time they spenddoing homework (9 hours), on a social networking site (8 hours), and with riends outside o school (8hours). And be mindul that these days not all TV viewing involves an actual TV set. Otentimes, girls watchshows on their computers or mobile devices. Also, viewing may take place in the background o otheractivities—while doing homework, eating meals, social networking, hanging out with riends, etc.The good news is that girls would like to spend their time dierently. Ninety percent o girls would ratherspend an hour hanging out with riends than an hour watching their avorite TV show, and 84% wouldrather spend an hour doing a un activity. This nding is similar to one rom the GSRI study on social media,which ound that even though girls today communicate prousely through the computer and/or theirmobile devices, most preer in-person time with riends.The takeaway here is the value o encouraging riend time and alternative activities to TV. What are someactivities that your daughter enjoys doing that don’t involve television? And remember: parents have animportant role in modeling healthy TV consumption. Are you a parent with an excessive viewing habit? Areyou part o a amily that has the TV on during dinner or in the background while having conversations withother amily members? How oten do you model alternative amily or individual activities and hobbies?You can even think about ways you can use what you see on TV to get the amily interested in other things.For instance:o Try out a recipe seen on a cooking program.o Explore a place—through books or the computer, or in person—inhabited or visited by charactersin a program you like.o Engage in a un amily activity seen on a avorite show.Put eort into demonstrating that ace-to-ace communication and enjoyable activities are important inyour amily, and you’ll create a healthier balance between TV and other things amily members like to do.
Tips for Parents
/ Girl Scout Research Institute
Tip #2:
Reality TV is here to stay, but not all shows are created equal. Bemindul o the type o reality TV your daughter is consuming, considerwatching with her, and use the shows as learning tools and conversationstarters.
In our study only 53% o 11- to 13-year-old and 8% o 14- to 17-year-old girls say that their parents regularlymonitor what they watch. And despite parental limitations and concerns, most girls watch reality TV, andalmost hal watch it regularly. Fully 41% o girls say their parents don’t approve o them watching reality TVbut 71% do it anyway.There are many types o reality TV, and you might be more comortable with your daughter watching cer-tain genres over others. A large part o the reason girls watch reality TV is to stay current with their riendsand amily, so it might not be realistic (or necessary) to set limitations on all reality TV. But you can do yourhomework. What are the shows that you eel are appropriate or your entire amily and which don’t youthink children or adolescents should be watching? What types o shows do you watch?Our study suggests that competition-based shows (American Idol, Project Runway, etc.) and makeovershows (The Biggest Loser, Extreme Home Makeover, etc.) have the most potential or inspiring conversa-tions with parents and riends, making girls eel like anything is possible, and helping girls realize that thereare people out there like them. These shows have an educational and awareness-based component,portraying new ideas and perspectives; increasing girls’ exposure to people with dierent backgrounds,values, and belies; and teaching girls things they might not have learned otherwise. Makeover shows inparticular raise awareness about important social issues and causes.Be on the lookout or “teachable moments” and consider ways to initiate potentially challengingconversations, using reality TV as a prompt. Think about watching reality TV programs together as a amilyand talking about them aterwards. For instance:o Did your daughter relate to the characters or scenarios?o What did she think about the situations portrayed? Does she have any questions?o What did she agree or disagree with? What is the most valuable thing she came away with?o Is she inspired by what she saw? What inspires her?o Does x-show encourage new passions or thoughts about what she wants to be when shegrows up?I there are elements o a given reality show that concern you, strike up a conversation about them.Try not to restrict viewing without giving a reason: talk about what concerns you and i/why you thinkcertain shows are a bad infuence. (Read on or more inormation on the specic impact o reality TV ongirls, including tips or responding.) Have conversations with your daughter about the messages theseshows send and try to understand what’s attracting her to them. Does she take them seriously? Whatdoes she think o the characters?By being mindul o the variety o reality programs that exists and monitoring/participating in what yourdaughter is watching, you are in a better place to inspire conversation and learning.
Tips for Parents
/ Girl Scout Research Institute
Tip #3:
Talk about the dierences between reality TV and actual reality.
This is especially true o girls who watch reality TV regularly. These girls are more likely to be comortablewith gossiping, eel that girls have to compete or a boy’s attention, and say it’s natural or girls to be cattyand competitive with one another than are girls who watch reality TV less requently. They are also lesslikely to trust other girls and to place more value on being mean and/or lying to get ahead.What girls don’t oten recognize is that much o what they consider “real” is actually scripted. In the GirlScout Leadership Journey MEdia, TV producer Melissa Freeman Fuller shares that crew members oteneed lines to participants, set up situations, and edit shots to make things seem more dramatic and inter-esting.* As an adult, you may be able to distinguish between reality and scripted TV and to take the latterwith a grain o salt, but young people are more impressionable and perhaps believing in and mimickingthese behaviors.When talking about reality TV with your daughter, ask her what she thinks is real and i she thinks any o agiven program might be scripted or “ake” and why/why not. Posing urther questions—
did you like howshe/he reacted to that situation? what would you have done? why do you think that way? 
—can oer you aglimpse into how your child is processing what she’s viewing. Some additional inquiries:o Does your daughter nd hersel mimicking the negative behaviors depicted or is she totallyturned o by them?o Does she assume this is just the way the world works?o Does she know a lot o people who depict these behaviors?o What are some ways she might react dierently that could produce a better outcome?Also think about ways in which you might be inadvertently blurring the lines between reality and reality TVyoursel. Do you nd that you talk about reality show characters as though they are your real riends? Doyou do this in ront o or with your children?Because girls so oten think that what they see in reality TV programs is an accurate portrait o real lie, it isimperative that you discuss the dierences between the two. I shows don’t refect your daughter’s reality,encourage her to create media that does.*
Tip #4:
Encourage your daughter to look beyond the mirror.
Girls who regularly view reality TV are ocused on the importance o physical appearance and more likelyto think that a girl’s value is based on this, and it’s a shame, because o course girls have so much more tooer the world than their looks. Make sure your daughter knows this. Compliment her on her talents andpraise her or her values or willingness to try new things. Encourage her to pursue interests that are notbased on improving her looks.Particularly or mothers, it is critical to be aware o what is said and done around daughters with regard toone’s own physical appearance. In a recent study, the GSRI ound a substantial link between how a mothereels about her body and how a girl eels about hers. Girls look to their mothers or advice on healthy living

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