Reality TV Viewing Can Lead to Bullying

Sunday March 31, 2013

By Sherri M. Gordon

Whether you watch Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Bachelor or The Next Food Network Star, reality TV is extremely popular among today's viewing audiences. Although not all shows are successful, many do become popular. That does not mean that they are healthy programs to watch though, especially for tweens and teens.

In fact, some psychologists worry that watching reality TV glorifies bullying and can lead to aggressive behavior among viewers. Moreover, according to some psychologists reality TV depicts nearly twice the number of aggressive acts as dramas and comedies.

Meanwhile, some studies show that realistic behaviors shown on television programs are more likely to be imitated than fictionalized behavior. For instance, a 2011 Girl Scout Research Institute study, Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV found that girls who regularly watched reality TV did accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their own lives.

While these results are not surprising for most parents, many don't know what should be done. Instead of limiting their teen's viewing choices, parents need to help kids question what they are watching. Getting kids to think critically about what they are watching is sometimes a better alternative than making a television program forbidden.

When parents work to impart critical thinking and take steps to prevent bullying, kids learn to make healthy decisions for their lives separate from their sources of entertainment. They also learn to separate fact from fiction.

There are several things parents can do to equip their kids with skills to navigate life without the need to imitate what they see on TV. For instance, parents can help kids make healthy friendships, impart character education, build self-esteem and nurture resiliency. When parents work to impart these things in their kids' lives, the impact from reality TV will be small.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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