No to Deadly Sins

It would be nice to think that when it comes to Reality TV,  young girls are spending their screen time taking in the more wholesome shows offered by this now well known genre of television programming, such ABC’s Extreme Makeover; Home Edition, or The Fox Network’s ratings winner,  American Idol. If you’re thinking that this is actually the case when it comes to your children and the young people with whom they associate then you might be in real need for a reality check.  Not only are girls huge fans of Reality TV, but unfortunately it’s the not so wholesome shows that are at the top of their viewing list.  A new report shows in addition to their bad viewing choices, young girls are for the most part being negatively influenced by these shows in more ways than one.

A study recently released by the Girl Scout Research Institute, “Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV” found that among the more than 1100 girls they surveyed,  Lord help us, Jersey Shore was among their favorite reality shows. The survey referred to Reality TV as, yikes, an “entertainment staple” for young people.  Many girls also believe (50% of those questioned) that Reality TV shows are “mainly real and unscripted” when quite the opposite is true.  You don’t have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure out there is a game plan here in terms of the producers and network officials going for the shock value with Reality TV.

The cast members are encouraged to be as over the top as possible. Their outlandish, crude, and lewd antics are part of the plan in hopes of increasing ratings and revenue.  Most adults realize this and as a result, as the researchers explained, might consider these shows to be no big deal.  That’s not the case with young people, especially impressionable females.  The Girl Scout Research Institute explains it found significant differences between girls who view Reality TV regularly and those who don’t.  Reality TV fans have much different views on what to expect in their everyday lives and in relationships.

Among the girls around the country questioned for “Real to Me”, those who make these types of programs a regular part of their TV diet expect to experience a higher level of “drama, aggression, and bullying”.  The report also found they are more likely than those who don’t watch these shows to agree that:

  • Gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls. (78% vs. 54%)
  • It is in a girl’s nature to be catty and competitive. (68% vs. 50%) and
  • It is hard to trust other girls. (63% vs. 50%)
  • You have to lie to get what you want. (28% vs. 18%)
  • Being mean earns you more respect. (37% vs. 24%)

Self-image or self-esteem problems are also a big issue among girls today and this survey was no exception with 72% admitting they spend a lot of time on their appearance vs. Another 42% of non-viewers and more than one-third or 38% think a girl’s value is based on how she looks compared with 28% of non-viewers.  The survey also found a few positive spin-offs including exposing girls to diversity in our culture but the bad news definitely outweighed the good when it came to the impact on impressionable young women.

The Girl Scout Research Institute survey did provide some tips for parents. At the top of the suggestion list is developing alternative activities for the entire family, activities that don’t involve a TV or a computer, as well as taking a closer look at what types of Reality TV shows their children are watching.  You can find the survey on the Research Institute web site at  These are simple, solid, and necessary suggestions that can and should be put in place in American homes. Maybe with fewer young people watching, Snooki and company of Jersey Shore fame will just have to take their really big hair, potty mouths, and stiletto heels and fade into the Atlantic sunset.  One can only hope and pray.

Teresa’s latest book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture has been on the Catholic best-seller list since its release in October, 2011.

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