Reality TV and Children

reality tv and children
reality tv and children

Can watching reality TV traumatise your child? This is an article reflect on research by Central Michegan University which raises concerns that this hybrid documentary and entertainment media can cause on children who can’t seperate out the two. 

These programmes normalise harassment, hostility, and unhealthy rivalry. It shows a view of real life that is unrealistic and unattainable to many.  

Reality TV and Children 

So what is reality TV about? TV companies, like all companies are about money. Being in the entertainment industry melodrama, bullying, backbiting, rumours, and unhealthy interpersonal interactions bring in viewers and therefore advertising revenue. Many people are drawn to reality shows because they may be highly entertaining in some cases. But is it appropriate for children to watch media that encourages behavior that we would normally find objectionable? If they do, what can we do to make it clear that they can put it in context. 

We can recognise the differences between actual life and the life portrayed in reality shows because we are grownups. Children, however, might not be mature enough to distinguish between what is seen on reality television and what truly occurs in real life. In a similar way that they can not see the support team and photoshop that goes into that casual Instagram shot. 

The correlation of media and behavior is well established. According to research in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, children who watched high-risk TV exhibited a greater increase in their self-reported risk-taking behaviour than children who watched low-risk TV or no TV at all. For us this would be Jackass led to an increase in trips to hospital with injuries as children tried to imitate. You will of no doubt seen your younger children try and imitate film characters. However reality confuses the difference between fact and fiction. 

Having said that, there are some benefits that we must also take into account. Reality television isn’t always terrible for children. The entire family can enjoy watching some programmes, such as singing competitions and a few cooking-based reality series. Some others, if watched together, open up conversations such as conflict and ‘what would you do if it was you’. As always, education is important rather than ‘banning’. We can’t control what our children do all the time in this technological era. 

It’s true that certain networks might change their format to boost their ratings, and they might not really care how this impacts children. Reality TV is the new soap opera so they are not going anywhere. Experts claim that some prime-time television programming is aimed mostly at women between the ages of 25 and 40. With the way in which children now associate with media your teens are likely to be watching it online and also following the characters like the Kardashians on social media.  

The following are some examples specific examples of how reality television can harm children: 

Physical Dangers of Reality TV on Children

  • Children who copy unsafe behaviour run the risk of getting hurt physically. 
  • Some children who see violent scenarios in media on a regular basis could want to use violence to settle disputes and fights. 

Emotional Dangers of Reality TV on Children

  • It may reinforce or introduce negative feelings. Whether it be about their place in society, life progress or body image. It could be tattoos or alcohol. Neither of which are inherently bad, but might be that you want to be involved in your child’s opinions on them.
  • People who are susceptible to negative messages and may lack the maturity to understand that these shows are scripted won’t be able to make wise decisions. 
  • Few children will be emotionally developed enough to see it as just another programme. However, some people with low self-esteem may copy undesirable behavior and take dramatic measures in an effort to attract attention. 
  • They will believe that using violence, being aggressive and manipulative, and disrespecting others are all acceptable. We discuss here about how to describe a healthy relationship. Reality TV lets you talk about it with examples.
  • They could become so absorbed in reality TV that they lose sight of the outside world. 
  • They can disagree with the idea of fair play and think that using any means necessary to succeed is right. 

Reality TV and Body Anxiety 

According to a survey, reality TV is causing young people to experience body anxiety, which might result in suicidal thoughts. In a study of 4,505 UK adults conducted, 24% of people ages 18 to 24 believe reality TV causes them to worry about their body image. Moreover, one in seven individuals reported engaging in self-harm or purposeful self-injury due to worries about their body image, and 23% reported having suicidal thoughts as a result of these worries. It is important to remember that we do not always know what is going on in our child’s life as this story about British school girl Molly Russell shows us.

There have been calls for reality programmes to include more plus-size candidates in order to more accurately reflect society as concern over reality TV’s impact on contestants and viewers develops.The research demonstrates unequivocally that many young individuals claim reality TV negatively affects how they feel about their own bodies. Anxiety, despair, and emotions of disgust and shame are all associated with body image concerns. This article discusses how to help your child have a positive body image.

Following accusations that they portrayed a false ideal of perfection and worsened young people’s fears, advertisements for cosmetic surgery during reality show broadcasts were outlawed in various countries. It is understood that several reality shows won’t promote diet items either. 

According to recent research, seeing pictures of perfect bodies can make people feel more anxious and shame about their bodies. 

Final Thoughts on Reality TV

We very much emphasise that education is the basis of parenting. Your child will be exposed to reality TV and their stars in conversation. You can however have an influence on who your children see as a role model. We can also talk about the production of reality TV and it’s problems. But we can also use it to talk about issues that are brought up. At it’s best it is a way to discuss conflict, friendships and relationships.

  • Explain your family’s beliefs and values and the fact that they differ from what is portrayed on reality television, taking into account the child’s age and level of understanding. 
  • Assist the child in realising the effects such programmes can have and that reality is not as it appears on a reality show. 
  • Have cordial and non-threatening conversations.