Girls and reality tv are a potent combo, Girl Scouts report says

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Girls and reality TV are a potent combo, Girl Scouts report says

Adapted from an article published October 14, 2011 (7.3)

In the future, what will our well-dressed, mean girl leaders have in common? A childhood filled with a lot of reality television.

A new survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute shows the effects reality TV may be having on female youth. Some are good and some are bad. The survey included 1,141 girls across the U.S. The girls are ages 11 to 17. They were asked about their reality TV-watching habits and their opinions on relationships, self-confidence, self-image and success. About half of the girls said they watch reality TV-show regularly. About a quarter said they rarely or never saw those shows. surveyed thought reality shows promote bad behavior. 86% felt the shows often set girls against each other to make things more exciting. 70% said reality TV leads people to think it's okay to treat people badly.
But when they were divided into regular viewers and non-viewers, differences began to appear. They were given this statement: "You have to lie to get what you want." 37% of regular reality TV-show viewers agreed. Only 24% of non-viewers agreed.

Does "Being mean earns you more respect than being nice"? 37% of viewers agreed versus 25% of non-viewers.

For the statement, "You have to be mean to others to get what you want," 28% of viewers said yes; only 18% of non-viewers said yes.

On the subject of self-image, 72% of regular viewers said they spent a lot of time on their appearance. Only 42% of non-viewers said they did. When asked if they would rather be recognized for their outer rather than inner beauty, 28% of reality show watchers said yes. Only 18% of non-watchers agreed.

Getting a picture here? Don't be so fast to judge--there's more.

Girls who watched reality TV on a regular basis were more self-assured than non-viewers. Most regular views think of themselves as mature and a good influence. They also describe themselves as outgoing, funny, and smart. More aspired to leadership than non-viewers (46% compared with 27%). Regular reality TV viewers were more likely to see themselves as role models (75% versus 61%).

The shows proved helpful in other ways. For example, 68% thought reality TV made them think they could achieve anything in life. 75% said reality shows featured people with different backgrounds and beliefs. 62% said the shows made them more conscious of social issues and causes. 59% say they found out about new things they may not otherwise have learned. Just what those new things were isn't known.

Things we've learned from watching reality TV: Flipping out works better when there is action like table-flipping, hair-pulling or object-throwing. If you have to be restrained [held back] by several people, that's a win. Also, if you lose at something, make sure you blame everyone and everything for your poor performance. And always, always, cry.

"Girls today are bombarded with media--reality TV and otherwise--that more frequently portrays girls and women in competition with one another rather than in support or collaboration," said Andrea Bastiani Archibald. She is a developmental psychologist with Girl Scouts of the USA. "This perpetuates a 'mean-girl' stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls. We don't want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them, along with their parents, to know what they are getting into when they watch it."

We have to wonder if this is a chicken-or-egg thing. Are girls who have a tendency to being mean, shallow, but also confident and driven drawn to reality TV? Or does watching such shows make them that way? Do you let your children watch reality TV? If so, do any of these statistics ring true? Let us know.

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