Is Reality TV Good for the Youth of Today?

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Chayill Williams, Staff Writer

As children, we grew up watching television from different child friendly platforms. We would watch Hannah Montana and That’s So Raven on Disney Channel and I-Carly and Spongebob on Nickelodeon. Every other episode had a message that taught us something about friendship, how to persevere, or life in general. These shows taught us specific lessons that helped shape how we as people act and treat others. However, as we matured, we started to watch different shows and movies. One of these being reality TV.

Reality TV is a genre of television that documents “unscripted real-life” situations. This genre has become popular over the last decade and dare I say, have become pretty entertaining. The dramatization of these individuals when something good or bad happens can be hilarious. When trends go viral, they have most likely come from reality television. Even memes made from these shows can make almost anyone laugh. Although humorous circumstances occur on these shows, there are also terrible situations that happen. Like the arguments that occur, the rumors and lies spread by the cast, and in its most severe form, the inappropriate, physical altercations that happen. Witnessing this can be damaging for anyone, especially children. It gives the youth a false sense of reality; they think that adults are supposed to fight and lie all the time. Sure, not all young people think like this, but the ones that do, can’t separate what is real from what is fake. It has been proven that most reality shows are fake and have planted things to make the show seem more entertaining. In 2011, the Girl Scout Organization held a survey that found that more than half the girls that viewed reality television believe that everything happening on the show is real. Can you imagine that these young girls are believe that these shows are unscripted?

Let’s take an example, the show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ broadcasts the lives of little girls and their families. As one watches this show, they notice a pattern with the participants, the little girls are typically “spoiled brats” who get anything they want simply by crying or getting angry and their parents are always pushy and competitive. Children who witness this behavior are most likely to be influenced to act the same way to get what they want or to get out of doing things they don’t want to do just because they saw someone who was close to their age do it on television. They start to exhibit these same behaviors because they have no real world experience, so they wont know that in reality, acting like a brat gets you nowhere in life.

Teenagers who have a little more experience with reality should know better than a child, right? Wrong. Teens can still be influenced to behave in such a manner that is not suited for adulthood. The show series Love & Hip Hop, however entertaining, can be a toxic portrayal of real life. This series is supposed to be a showcase for how the music industry is with an added love aspect between cast members. It seems as if every other episode, a new fight occurs or new problems rise out of nowhere between the cast, and this show also portrays infidelity and toxic relationships. Teenagers, most specifically black teenagers, are coerced into acting like the cast of this series. They start to believe that they need to have “beef” with others and fight people to be seen as cool or superior. Teens are starting to see toxic relationships between “friends and significant others” as normal. They also aspire to be on these TV shows not really understanding the acting and life changes that go into it. They then start to copy what they see on TV and exhibit those behaviors in real life. 

The effect of reality television has gotten so bad that these argumentative and ignorant behaviors have become normal in society. It is truly heartbreaking that people think that they have to start arguments and fight others to be able to succeed in life and what’s even worse is that people actually make careers out of starting drama. 

Society is at the point where people are getting their personalities off of television and social media. As children and teens gain more access to these things, the more they are exposed to these controversial and inappropriate behaviors. They are starting to lose their sense of reality and replacing it with what they see on TV. As stated in the first paragraph, the shows people my age grew up with had positive and insightful messages to give young viewers. What kind of message is reality television sending to its audience?