Last year, my 10 year old sister heard about the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She fell in love with it. She would watch it anywhere and everywhere. She made sure she stayed updated on how the latest monster tried to defeat Buffy, or what the latest plot was to take over the world. She couldn’t wait to turn 15, because she was convinced she would end up fighting vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness too. She would always try to do what Buffy would, and it changed how she acted. It got really out of hand when I went into her room and found her attempting to sharpen a wooden stake with some scissors. When I asked her what she was doing, she replied with “I need to be prepared or the vampires will kill me!!” This show majorly changed how she treated herself and how she interacted with others. Sadly, my sister isn’t the only one that’s obsessing over these TV shows. Some people are heavily influenced by TV shows, and it is effecting society. According to a study by parentstv.org, “Reality TV shows that air on channels like MTV and TLC, influence how teenagers believe what a normal relationship looks like.” Teenagers that watch a lot of reality TV shows change the way they treat themselves and others. We are going to look at some causes, stake out some effects, and slay some solutions.
Reality TV causes girls and boys to treat others differently, and treat themselves differently. Kids are spending 32.5 hours a week in front of the TV, and they are seeing a constant pattern of women being depicted as models, and men being shown as fighters. Women shown on TV creates a standard for girls which is limited to how they look. This standard neglects other aspects of women, such as athletic ability, intelligence, character, and sense of right and wrong. According to a study done by Girl Scouts of America, shows that more than a third of girls surveyed think that a girl’s value is based on how she looks. 28% of girls (compared to 18% of girls) would rather be seen as pretty rather than smart. The standard forced on women is making it harder for girls to success because they are more focused on how they look. According to a survey conducted by smartgirl.org, over half of girls interviewed spend 20-30 minutes applying makeup. That is 14.2% of our day. Girls grow up thinking that beauty is essential, and without it, they are going nowhere.
Guys who watch shows like The Apprentice, Survivor, The Real World, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Cops are watching shows that display a lot of guns, swearing, fighting, and shootings. According to Kids Health Magazine, “The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. Kids may become desensitized to violence and be more aggressive.” Boys who watch these shows are exposed to violence that have no consequences, as long as the good guy comes out on top. They are portrayed as 100% bad. The bad guys don’t have full names, no families, and they don’t deserve sympathy. According to medialit.org, “Bad guys have to be really bad otherwise good guys wouldn’t be justified in clobbering them. They are driven to violence only as a last resort in their struggle against these bad, bad people.” The message of bad guys are truly bad, and good guys are truly good, is drilled into boys minds when they watch violent TV shows. Realistically, “bad” guys aren’t 100% bad. Boys who grow up with this message can be affected later in life, because they are taught early on to defeat “bad” guys with violence.
Reality TV can also effect teenagers. When people are watching shows that have constant competition and violence, it changes how they act towards friends, family, and it changes their attitude. According to a survey conducted by Girl Scouts of America called “Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV” 78% (compared to 54%) of girls that watch reality TV think that gossiping is a normal relationship between girls. 68% (compared to 50%) of girls think that it’s natural to be competitive towards each other. Shows that show beautiful girls always getting what they want portray a standard that the prettier you are, the happier you will be. According to Kids Health magazine, “In our teenage years, we become more aware of media images- as well as how other kids look and how we fit in. We start to compare ourselves with other people or media images. All of this can affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies as we grow.”
If girls think that the prettiest one is the happiest, it can lead to body image problems, depression, and self hatred. Boys can have problems with violence on TV shows. The American Psychological Association produced a study on how early TV violence is linked to adulthood aggression, “Early childhood exposure to TV violence stimulates an increase in aggression later in adulthood.” If guys watch violent TV shows, it is more likely that they will be verbally aggressive, generally aggressive, and aggressive towards spouses and loved ones. Violence in boys also influences how they respond to a threat. They’re immediate reaction is to respond with violence, since that’s how they’ve subconsciously remembered that from violent TV shows. This shows that if people watch shows that portray a lot of violence, aggression, competitiveness, and judging, they can pick up those actions and use them in their relationships and towards other people.
Finally, let’s come up with some solutions. We have to be nice to the people in our life, and don’t let TV shows change your perspective of yourself. We need to remember that the reality TV shows we watch aren’t real, and it shouldn’t change how we act and how we look at our lives. Limit how much we watch TV, and don’t watch too much violent TV. If we moderate how much violence we see, we can limit how many of these bad habits we pick up. All of these acts of violence can easily stick in boys and girls minds, so we limit how many of those TV shows we watch, we have a better chance to not be aggressive later.
My sister finally finished the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. She went back to her normal self, and she moved on to her next TV series. Only this time, we made sure she knew what was real and what wasn’t.