Where Are Girls Learning Life Lessons?

Is there a correlation between the amount of reality TV that teen girls are watching and the lessons they learn from it? A new study from the Girl Scouts Research Institute shows just how much young girls are influenced by reality TV in particular.


Does reality TV help or hurt?

With reality TV becoming more and more popular, girls are turning to these shows for entertainment value and life lessons. According to a national survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute, tween and teen girls are taking mental notes on "acceptable" physical appearances as well as expecting and accepting a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their own lives.

"We don't want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them... to know what they are getting into when they watch it."

"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. This perpetuates a 'mean-girl' stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls," states Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Ph.D., Developmental Psychologist with Girl Scouts of the USA.

"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."

Bullying, gossiping, relationships and appearances

The national study included tween and teen girls based on viewers and non-viewers of reality TV. Following are some of the findings:

  • 86 percent of all tween and teen girls believe that reality shows "often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting."
  • 78 percent of tween and teen girls who view reality TV shows stated that "gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls," while only 54 percent of non-viewers agreed.
  • 74 percent of tween and teen girls who view reality TV said that "girls often have to compete for a guy's attention," while only 63 percent of non-viewers agreed.
  • 72 percent of tween and teen girls who view reality TV said they spend more time on their appearance, while only 42 percent of non-viewers agreed.

Bullying in schools >>

Confidence and assurance

Even though the findings show that tween and teen girls who regularly watch reality TV are more interested in their appearance, believe that gossip is simply a way of life, think competing for attention is normal and believe that bullying is a way to make a TV show more interesting, the study also revealed that these girls were more self-assured than the non-viewers.

"The study also revealed that these girls were more self-assured than the non-viewers."

The majority of the girls that watch reality TV consider themselves mature, smart, funny and outgoing, and a good influence.

These girls also towered over the non-viewers when asked if they aspire to leadership positions (46 percent vs. 27 percent) and believe they are already leaders amongst their peers (75 percent vs. 63 percent).

75 percent of the girls who view reality TV also view themselves as role models, while only 61 percent on the non-viewers said the same.

Boost your teen girl's self confidence >>

Life lessons from watching reality TV?

There is an upside to tween and teen girls watching reality TV, according to the study. 75 percent of all girls believe that diversity -- in the form of showing different backgrounds and beliefs -- is one of the positive life lessons they take from reality TV. The girls also noted that they obtain positive lessons from reality TV:

  • 68% of girls say reality shows "make me think I can achieve anything in life"
  • 48% of girls say reality shows "help me realize there are people out there like me"

"We also want to emphasize the many positive benefits to reality TV, including its role as a learning and motivational tool," states Kimberlee Salmond, Senior Researcher with the Girl Scout Research Institute. "For example, we know that many girls receive inspiration and comfort from reality TV and that 62 percent of girls say that these types of shows have raised their awareness of social issues and causes."

Tell us:

Do you see the positives in reality TV for tweens and teens? Or do you feel reality TV is a bad influence?

More about TV and children

Is TV really bad for children?
Kids and TV: How much is too much?

TV and toddlers

Tags: girl scouts study

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Comments on "New Girl Scouts research exposes the impact of reality TV on tween and teen girls"

Suny329 November 25, 2012 | 10:09 AM

Mike and Jon.. Thank you both for your very correct replies, we need more Dad's like you both.

Suny329 November 25, 2012 | 10:06 AM

These programs do nothing positive for our young girls.. what they do , do, is shameless.. we've grown a huge segment of girls doing bad things to other girls. like getting together and deciding to tell lies about another girl.. when they know there's no truth to their planned lies.Bullying, being hateful and spiteful to no ends. Nothing positive has grown out of those shows for our young girls. I say stop this kind of programing,they do way to much harm. PLUS their behavior proves they are immature to try such antics, will be found out, then punished for such bad behavior

lucy November 15, 2012 | 1:42 PM

FINALLY, an article that says what i have been thinking for years. it DOES teach girls to be mean, superficial, and obsessed over their looks. That boys only want girls like that. geez.. when will they end? NOW I SAY.

mo November 03, 2012 | 8:44 AM

I think this trend is at its last legs. You can only make up reality but for so long. The Housewives franchise has become a laundry list of socialites no one really cares about. The orignial "pioneers" in this franchise have moved back into obscurity. I find the Kardashians boring and totally contrived. I assume people on reality shows are people very bored with themselves and their lifestyle and could use the attention and dough, from which I heard is not much. Many of these reality show contracts are very limiting and restricted and is based entirely on advertising dollars and subscribers to the networks. It is mindless entertainment and I'm not sure who to worry about more, the reality stars or the audience.

Mary Dailey August 18, 2012 | 8:04 PM

It is hard to believe even adults waste their time watching these shows, much less letting your daughters watch them. I really hate that they are teaching youngsters that it is okay to say mean things to people, to talk behind their backs, and all to try to make yourself look good. And, these are their so-called "friends." Kids are being conditioned to think this conduct is appropriate and acceptable. You have to wonder if they will ever have true friends someday.

Portia Stockton July 25, 2012 | 8:33 PM

I do not understand what people see in these shows. I especially hate the Bad girls club. These girls think it cool to make such asses of their selves. What is worse is that we accept these shows. Stop letting these girls be your daughters role model. let your daughters that is only television because in the real world not many people would deal with these girls stupid behavior.

H2theK July 06, 2012 | 10:28 AM

These shows do nothing to enhance teens or tweens and do much to hurt their self esteem. Instead of letting them watch, find something to do outdoors, learn a new skill or craft, just walk and talk. Let the real women of their lives serve as role models, not fantasy bimbos from tv!

Jessie June 24, 2012 | 8:25 PM

Julie, it doesn't matter if they think it's stupid or pathetic, they watch it and are basically supporting it to be kept on the air. So i'm guessing those young people you talk with aren't really that bright themselves. •48% of girls say reality shows "help me realize there are people out there like me" one of the scariest things i have ever read.

Julie June 24, 2012 | 7:50 PM

These so called reality show are not real. They pump up the drama to get the viewers. These girls are not role models at all. They glamorize, y, ty, drunken behavior, most of the young people I've talked to think the people on these shows are completely stupid and only watch it because they think its funny and/or pathetic. For those that actually think its real, well then you and those shows deserve each other.

Mike June 24, 2012 | 1:41 PM

Has anyone noticed that their daughters are using as role models some of probably the dumbest young women on the planet -- in many cases, young women who barely made it through high school? Big breasts and pretty looks do not a rocket scientist make. I'm frankly amazed at how little it takes to get the attention of the average American citizen. Doesn't say much for America.

jon harris May 27, 2012 | 2:50 PM

The problem with so called reality shows is their is no reality in them. It glamorizes y behavior. They do not instill good morals in people, old and young alike. If people think this behavior and lifestylle is normal they are going to have a hard time finding a mate/friend to put up with them. A relationship is built on love, trust and respect.

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