January 21, 2013
Reality Television: Good or Bad
Most teens perceive reality television programs in different views and for different reason. Teens even have different reactions to viewing these reality television programs whether it is a negative reaction or positive reaction. Parents never consciously think of how the impact on these programs or what their teen is really watching until they become involved. Some parents view these programs and think they are too influential and ban the programs from the home (the strict parent). Other parents indulge with their teen’s life and want to know what they are watching to relate and provide guidance to them. Is it possible to be either parent or both? It is easy to point the finger and believe that someone is taking your teen away with false envisions. While reality television can provide false envisions, parents should be involved in watching reality television programs with their teens because it provides them entertainment, teens will subconsciously hear their parents guidance while watching these programs, and it allows them to make a sound judgment on their own character. Why do teens really watch reality television programs? Popular reality television programs such as Bad Girls Club, American Idol, Love Games, America’s Top Model, and the list could go on, have one thing in common they provide entertainment for teens and pre-teens. These reality programs provide an entertaining way for these teens to share their views in school, and it is part of their social lives at some degree. The teens are able to connect with their friends and discuss these programs either to laugh at their ridiculous morals on the show, their likes and dislikes, or even whom they feel they relate more to. It is a form of connectedness to these teens. Connectedness is defined as the “level of intensity of the relationship(s) that a viewer develops with the characters and contextual settings of a program in the para-social television environment;” the higher the connectedness, the more involved the viewer is with the program and characters (Russell et al., 2004). ("The Appeal of Reality Television For Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences," 2011) Teens find themselves relating and having a social-life in school, on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and they are able to communicate via text or phone conversations. Of course the parents are not happy with some of the programs but it is nice to know what our teens are watching so that we can be in tune with how are teens are developing. With the continued popularity of reality television among young viewers, it is vital to identify pre-teen and teen audiences who not only watch a reality program but have a high level of connectedness to it. Connectedness extends beyond just viewing the program and involves further engagement—posting on social networking sites, for instance, or buying products placed on the show. ("The Appeal of Reality Television For Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences," 2011) The punch-lines of these reality television programs provide an addicting and exciting rush full of tense drama and romance that teens thrive for. As parents, we watch these programs to see how the teen is relating to these programs, possibly to see if there is potential belief in what they see. Just like typical movies there is slight distortion to what is real. Even with reality television programs there is distortion to the time things that could take months or years to accomplish happens in about a week on these reality television programs. Reality television programs are set up to gear to the audience and if it means giving the audience what they want than they go to any means necessary to keep their ratings up. Two key factors keep our interest and entertain us. One factor, we watch the tense drama or suspense week after week to gain entertainment. Watching reality TV is like watching a traffic accident. The ordinary reality show is just glass shattered on the highway, fire trucks, stretchers, the Jaws of Life. Occasionally a show is so unbelievable it is like watching a car filled with children from the inner city going to a Fresh Air Fund camp slam a minivan full of widows and orphans on their way to play the slots in Atlantic City (Kitman, 2008). The other factor is humiliation, which is a key to reality television programming. People who are in these programs are real people who are trying to get their fame, even if it is for a season or day. They could care as much of the humiliating experience they are on national television (Kidman, 2008). With these factors in mind it is easy for teens to be entertained by these programs. In fact, adults watch these programs as entertainment as well. The issue is the extreme will the producers realize the stopping point? They will not, the viewers are the ammunition. A parent has the ability to watch these programs as a mentor with their teens, if not with him or her, behind the scenes, to stay up on what is going on to stay ahead of the times to relate to their teens. Parents most scary thought is watching their teens turn into young women and men. How can we still be the parent who is cool and still teach our teens? Being active, it is easy to fall into our everyday busy lives and not even see what can be prevented. Being active does not mean be that stalking mother or father but proactively know what is going on in your teen’s era or generation. Romantically themed Reality television programs can be a struggle when teens are seeing different perceptions on how love is being perceived. Studies show that teens who view these shows male or female it has a negative impact on the sexual desires of the teen. Whatever happened to the old way of being lifetime friends and falling in love? A romantically themed reality television program becomes one of those television programs that not only entertain but it entices the teen to sexual conversation and risk. The studies show that teen girls are more prone to have the connectedness and conversation with their friends, and the males are more pressured into having sex (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2011). Parents should take the time to view these programs, to at least get a summary of the topics in the programs to actively be involved in what their teen is instilling subconsciously. Sex can be a subject that we may not want to face with our teens, but it is happening daily. Showing the teen that these shows are a mere false pretense of a relationship and being open to this conversation will give the teen that opportunity to see the reality of it and still feel that they are in control. Having the awareness that the sexual communication in these television programs will be increased, parents can effectively have an intimate conversation to present to the teen there are risks involved and there is exaggeration in what they are viewing in the entertainment world of these programs. Studies show that the main reasons the teens watch these romantic themed reality television programs is to entertain or escape, habit, mood- regulating motives, peer connectedness, and peer conversation (Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2011). Parents can use this knowledge to assist in relating to the teen and providing different outlets to steering them in different directions to keep the grounded and equipped with the knowledge needed. Entertainment is evident to allow teens to be entertained knowing the difference between real and exaggeration. In escape allow them to watch these with alone to capture their own view without influence. Allowing the individualism will create that moment of individuality after parent did his or her job. Habitual viewing of these shows their dedication to the show and how well they connected to the characters or moral. It shows they are anticipating on the results or ending. Mood regulating motives shows that if they had a long hard day the relief of some entertainment relieves them from that stress and can watch carelessly, a reality television program for a quick laugh or escape from the stress they encountered. Peer connectedness is where the teen can compare with their friends the results of the final thoughts of the episode they have viewed. We do that effortlessly during and after a show or program of any sort, even a movie. Conversation amongst teens can be intense depending on the show they viewed or watched. This could be anywhere from a sexual conversation to a little comparison in the fight that took place on a show. Teens watch reality television for a numerous reasons, but they are also smart enough to know right from wrong. Teens are equipped with wisdom and knowledge from their parents and will use and compare a lot of that information to make their own mistakes. Knowing this information the teen can make a sound decision and with process of elimination can actively be a popular teen and still pick out of these reality programs life lessons that will carry them in their future. Shows like Jerry Springer, Bad Girls Club, America’s Top Model, and American Idol are all reality shows with different messages to the public. Some of the messages are negative or positive. "Teens are naturally curious about other people's lives and want to know how their own lives compare," she says. And they often look to reality shows for answers. Young people also tend to watch shows with older characters to learn what it will be like when they get to that age, according to David Bickham, Ph.D., staff scientist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston (Is Reality TV Messing With Your Head?, 2012). Parents’ job is never finished, the thought that was my teen instilled with good moral? Have I done all I could to build my teens esteem and character? These questions and more are parent’s dreaded questions because they do not want to fail as parents. Reality these reality television programs are meant for entertainment and to give an idea of how life could be. The factor of exaggeration is considered by the teen. The biggest question is where is my teen’s mindset? Teens have a connection with these reality television programs not so much to mirror what they see but to communicate with others including the parent. The degree of influence these shows have might depend on how you feel about yourself, not just how you feel about the characters you see on TV. "If a teen is struggling with self-esteem issues, he might adopt some of these attention-getting behaviors to get recognition," says Gottlieb. "If, however, you're confident in yourself and have positive sources of attention, such as sports or theater or good friends, you'll probably see the Kardashians or The Situation as ridiculous, not role models (Is Reality TV Messing With Your Head?, 2012). What parents instill in the teen will determine the outlook of the teen ad how much the parent will have to work with their teen. Reality television programs can be entertaining and educational, and can open up new worlds for kids and teens, giving them a chance to travel the globe, learn about different cultures, and gain exposure to ideas they may never encounter in their own community (University of Michigan Health System, 2010). “Reality shows are not meant to inform or educate (like news), not produced in order to persuade or influence (like political advertisements), and do not necessarily or instinctively evoke negative feelings in subjects when used by researchers as a stimulus as media violence, pornography, or death metal lyrics do. Even though reality television can provide false envisions, parents being involved in watching reality television programs with their teens provides them entertainment, they will hear your guidance on what is being viewed, and it allows them to make a sound judgment on their own character. When you actually think about all the reasons reality television programs are viewed they seem to all tie together. Reality television programs create that momentum for teens to be informed, entertained, and allowing them to create their own reality as an adult. Teen’s motives are not always as they seem. They may start off showing a negative response to the programs and then flip and show positive responses just to interacting with others and gaining that chance to be their own and make decisions. Enabling teens to watch the reality programs they are able to communicate what they viewed and have the social life. Teens are also able to view these reality programs with a critical eye to take the bitter with the sweet with every show to be their own judge. Finally just to have that great entertainment moment in a day is worth laughing, relating to, or even comparing to. Are you a parent finally realizing that teens are going to view these programs and make mistakes that are at times difficult to witness. Parents being involved with their teens although will be difficult will overcome the storm they will encounter but it will be worth the fight in the end.
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