Effects of Reality TV

Wondering about the effects of reality TV on your children? In some cases, reality television programs can be worse for your kids than violent cartoons or shows that exist to pitch toy lines. Kids often don't understand that much of what they're seeing is staged, or that the behavior on display carries negative consequences in real life.

Not as Real as You Think
Many reality television shows present a distorted view of real life, highlighting the emotional, scandalous and traumatic moments that occurred during taping. Kids who believe this is the way life really is can develop a distorted sense of reality, including bad examples of how to react to anger, frustration or disappointment in their own lives. 

What's Bad?
Shows that feature people hopping in bed with multiple partners, competing to win someone's love or scheming to win a contest are among the worst things on TV for your kids. While adults can recognize the bad behavior on display, kids often can't. These shows reduce hard work to a quick montage and sometimes present love as something to win or to use against others. 

When kids watch "reality TV," they believe this is an example of other "regular" people, and the way most people respond to situations in their lives. What kids don't understand is that the moments presented on the show are those selected from hundreds of hours of footage. Dramatic impact is the basis of the editing choices, so extremes of behavior are what end up being shown. The Bachelor, Flavor of Love, Big Brother and John and Kate Plus Eight are examples of unrealistic reality shows.

What's Good?
Shows that present people competing in talent contests, such as American Idol, or shows that present people working on reaching a goal, such as The Biggest Loser, are good because they allow kids to see people striving to do their best, getting praise for accomplishments, and earning rewards for doing well. Dancing with the Stars and America's Got Talent are also excellent shows, because they reward people who have genuine ability.

For older kids, shows such as Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers offer insight into difficult, dangerous jobs. These shows celebrate the rewards of hard work but don't hide the sometimes difficult relationships between people. Rough language and the occasional serious injury or death are part of the landscape. Hell's Kitchen is also a good show for teens. Chef Gordon Ramsey and the contestants never hold back on the shouting, insults or salty language, but Ramsey's insistance on teamwork and doing a job right are solid messages for young people.

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