Guest Author - Emma Scott-Olubamise
Reality TV is mostly a harmless distraction. If we’re lucky, we might learn something. Since the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, “Reality TV” has explored hundreds of topics. Scott Manville, founder and president of the TV Writer’s Vault has described Reality TV programming and its effects as having “opened our eyes to what is compelling and informative in our world and worlds we don’t live in”.
I don’t disagree. Except, I’m seeing more and more teenaged and young adult women, hair pulling, table flipping, plastic surgery consulting, conniving and outright blind, pass out drinking. I am watching a health crisis in the making. I always hope this is an act, a manipulation by producers, knowing that the act of being watched affects the nature of the behavior.
Sadly, Girl Scout Council survey research shows that girls between 11 and 17 years old watch Reality TV and, 75% believe the shows are real; 78% believe gossiping is normal; 68% believe that it is normal to be catty and distrust other girls; 72% spend more time focused on outward beauty rather than developing inner value. WebMD News reports that since the Reality TV boom in 2000, eating disorders have tripled. Psychologist, Charlotte Markey, has found that the numbers of teens watching body image related Reality TV are increasingly having plastic surgery every year.
While women are on the forefront of a new leadership movement, Reality TV is teaching girls how to treat one another. It isn’t a long stretch from cattiness to full blown bullying. Aggressive behavior, menacing and bullying among juvenile girls is on the rise, mimicking the same behaviors of allegedly “strong” women in shows like the Real Housewives Series, Bad Girls Club, Married to Medicine and Love and Hip Hop. Just Google “girl fights” or “World Star Hip Hop” for some of the worst examples of bullying. The National Institute of Mental Health found that victims of bullying suffered 14 times the risk of panic disorder, 5 times the risk of depressive disorders, and 10 times the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Reality TV is exploiting teenage girl’s fears and insecurities at this most vulnerable stage, contributing to the mental, emotional and physical risks to the most promising sector of our emerging population, future young female leaders. The saddest takeaway is that no one is encouraging girls to create their own positive content. Let’s make that a movement.