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Reality TV Influence Youth Behavior

Reality Television and how it can influence the behavior of youth and teens There is no doubt that when it comes to American youth television is one of the biggest influences by far.Many parents would love to say that their child does not watch that much TV but in reality they are spending a lot of time watching television or using media in some way.“The study by the Kaiser Family foundation shows that children ages 2-8 spend an average of 5 ? hours a day “consuming media” kids 8 and older spend even more time in front of the tube nearly 6 ? hours a day” (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005 ).

Astonishingly, more time is being spent with media then doing homework, studying or even spending time with family.

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A child’s retention of what they watch depends on the child’s attention span, how they would process the information and of course their own e experience however limited this may be. Reality television can affect the attitudes and behaviors of children all over the U. S. through its stereotyping, violence and cultivating false perception of reality. This differs from family to family and depends on the values instilled in the child.

While media manipulates the minds of youth and teens, the value portrayed on reality television by reinforcing negative stereotypes and idealizes body image to be accepted as the norm. Stereotypes are unavoidable in media especially in reality programming. In my opinion the stereotypes depicted in media can influence the way youth see people in real life. Basing their opinion on what they have viewed on television. Often time’s television tends to stereotype genders and racial groups in a negative way.

For example by watching the shows “Jersey Shore” and “Jerseylicious” you would think that young Italian people are only interested in partying, excessive drinking, promiscuity, name brand fashions and working out. That’s not the best image to enact to young people. With all the media used by youth in America is there any wonder why children stereotype what they don’t know? Adolescent females are easily swayed when it comes to messages about body image. A show such as “America’s Next Top Model” demonstrates that in order to be a model a person must be slender. Recent research indicates that there is a marked link between TV and watching, and negative body and eating disorders” (British Journal of Psychiatry) Young people are always concerned with what their peers will say. I went around my neighborhood and asked a few teens some questions about body image and the media. I ran into a group of five girls and asked them do they feel that body image is important and if so how important is it. After a few moments one of the girls named Kayla who was 15years old said yes with a smirk.

My follow up question was “Why is it so important? ” she answered without a moment of pause “Because when you see someone who is overweight you automatically think they don’t care about themselves, they have bad BO and I don’t want people to think that about Me. ” This conversation went on for almost an hour as she informed of her workout routine. Later, that day I saw some young males at the skate park and asked them the same questions as the girls the answers were the total opposite. A young man named Martin who was14 was the only one willing to answer my questions.

He said he didn’t think it mattered about his body image or his friends. He later stated he thought it was dumb but when I asked him if he would ever date a girl that was overweight a little ashamed he replied that he wouldn’t. It is no secret that boys and girls are different but prior to this research I thought that all teenagers had basically the same outlook on how they view their bodies. Unfortunately the shows that children and young people are exposed to are not in a realistic light.

Children see that the actors and actresses have perfect bodies, hair, and skin and clothing this is not realistic but the need to be perfect remains prominent in our society. With the desire to be perfect it often leads to eating disorders and death. “The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death in females15-24 years old. ”(American Journal of Psychiatry 1995) Instead of children being taught that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors children are being pumped with the stereotypes that they identify in themselves.

This is prominent in the African American community; it is often taught at a young age that if you are of darker complexion or have a curlier hair texture you are not as pretty as the lighter complexioned girl that you might know. It is assumed that the media is to blame for this way of thinking. Youth and teens are self conscious enough without these negative “airbrushed” and unrealistic images put forth in the media. Media is also being tied to the increasing violence in US children. Children are increasing anti-social and aggressive behavior, become less sensitive to violence and those who suffer from violence, children may view the world as violent and mean fearful of being a victim of violence. Children may desire to see more violence in entertainment and real life, and children will view violence as an acceptable way to settle conflicts. ”( Buchanan, A. M. , Gentile, D. A. , Nelson, D. A. ,Walsh, D. A. , Hensel, J. 2002) Astonishingly, more time is being spent on watching television then homework which differ from child to child.

A child’s interpretation of what they watch depends on of their attention spans, the way in which they process the information, and their own limited life experiences. Entertainment media exposure can negatively affect attitudes and behaviors of the American child through violence, cultivating false perceptions of reality and stereotyping. Continued concerns researchers are finding exposure to the media violence causes increased levels of aggression and violence in children.

Experts even suggest that the evidence linking media violence to aggressive behavior is as strong as the evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. “Among 10 to 24 year olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans; the second leading cause of death for Hispanic and third leading cause of death for Asian/ Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives. ”(CDC2010a) While most adults realize that media violence is fabricated, children are more vulnerable. A Pre-K student will not know the difference between reality and fantasy.

It is suggested that children who identify with an aggressive hero they see on TV are more likely to be aggressive. “They learn that violence is effective, courageous, and socially except able and rewarded, and they get caught in the aggressive cycle. ” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995) In a book titled “Reality TV” in an article Teenagers Identify with the Issues Presented in Reality TV Shows by David Hiltbrand suggests there two reasons why teenagers are able to identify with reality shows are because the shows are “short” and “often deal with relationships and rejection.

So, with this basic recipe of making reality programming teenagers are being drawn into this toxic TV. Youth can easily relate to the emotions and situations of the reality show stars, like trying to avoid rejection by making friends and/or alliances. Also in the article, David Hiltbrand states that the top shows watched by teens are reality programs. There is lots of evidence that shows the effect of reality television on teenagers and the fact that reality television is greatly consumed by teenagers today.

So, there must be something about reality shows that make them able to pull in such a large group of teens, and that would be the fact that they are able to identify with reality show characters which makes the reality show more enjoyable. This goes hand and hand with the cultivation theory. This theory can have a negative effect on teens about the real world. The Cultivation theory put simply suggests that exposure to large amounts of television will over time cultivate viewers perception of reality. A large amount of television watching is seen as “cultivating” this theory suggests that you would become more engrossed in television programming than in everyday life. The idea is presented to a passive audience, such as children often accept the ideas and therefore influence large groups into conforming behind the ideas. This gives the media a significant influence over youth audiences. ”(Cultivation Theory and Research) Children of a young age usually don’t get to experience the world and don’t have many life experiences to refer to, but by the time they do are using the ideas and thoughts that have been given to them through the media.

Television can also fill with a wealth of good and educational programming. Having different news stations with different points of view, quality reality shows such as “Downsized” or a show like “Too fat for 15”. But are young people rushing home to watch these programs. The teens that I talked to admitted that they had not seen the shows. Although I know the opinion of a few really doesn’t make the majority. Many researchers are telling parents monitor their child’s television and media intake. By monitoring what they watch you can also monitor the amount.

In my own experience this message rings true I often monitor the programming my children watch because I know they are young and impressionable. In conclusion watching TV or consuming other forms of media does seem to have replaced dressing up or reading books as the favorite pastime for our youth. Yes, media can alter the thoughts of young impressionable minds if consumed in large amounts but if monitored by parents and by parents steering their children in the right direction media can be a be a powerful tool to gain information about the world.

People often refer to reality television as the armpit of entertainment. This may be so but it is just that entertainment and as far as the values portrayed in them I wouldn’t exactly call them that. Television stations have found a “formula” to make money; it’s not always a positive message behind it but there are a few with a positive message out there. Instilling the values in your children while they are young would be the best way to avoid them wanting to take the messages from TV and applying them to everyday life.

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