Girl Scouts: Reality TV leads to heightened aggression, negative self-image

Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 14-10-2011

Beware the Jersey Shore: tween and teen girls who regularly view reality TV accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance.
According to Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV, a national survey released by the Girl Scout Research Institute, the vast majority of girls think reality shows "often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting" (86%). When comparing the propensity for relational aggression between viewers and non-viewers of reality TV, 78% vs. 54% state that "gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls."
Regarding romantic relationships, reality TV viewers are more likely than non-viewers to say "girls often have to compete for a guy's attention" (74% vs. 63%), and are happier when they are dating someone or have a boyfriend/significant other (49% vs. 28%).
"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," said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, developmental psychologist for the 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. Our national leadership program equips girls with the skills to decipher media fact from fiction and make healthy decisions for their own lives-separate from their sources of entertainment."
Girls who view reality TV regularly are also more focused on the value of physical appearance. 72% say they spend a lot of time on their appearance vs. 42% of non-viewers, while more than a third (38%) think that a girl's value is based on how she looks.
At the same time, girls surveyed who regularly view reality TV are more self-assured than non-viewers when it comes to an overwhelming majority of personal characteristics, with the majority considering themselves mature, a good influence, smart, funn and outgoing. They are more likely than non-viewers to both aspire to leadership (46% vs. 27%) and to think they are currently seen as a leader (75% vs. 63%). In addition, they are more likely to see themselves as role models for other girls (75% vs. 61%).
It’s not all bad news. "We also want to emphasize the many positive benefits to reality TV, including its role as a learning and motivational tool," said Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute. "For example, we know that many girls receive inspiration and comfort from reality TV and that 62% of girls say that these types of shows have raised their awareness of social issues and causes."