According to a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, reality TV has become staple entertainment for young people and adults alike, 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.
Key findings include:
- The vast majority of girls think reality shows "often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting" (over three fourths). When comparing the propensity for relational aggression between viewers and non-viewers of reality TV, three fourths vs. half 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" (three fourths vs. two thirds), and are happier when they are dating someone or have a boyfriend/significant other (half vs. a fourth).
- Girls who view reality TV regularly are also more focused on the value of physical appearance. Three fourths say they spend a lot of time on their appearance vs. less than half of non-viewers, while more than a third (a third) think that a girl's value is based on how she looks.
- 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, funny, and outgoing.
- Two thirds of girls agree that reality shows "make me think I can achieve anything in life" and half think that they "help [them] realize there are people out there like me." Three fourths of girls say that reality TV depicts people with different backgrounds and beliefs.
Girl Scout Research Institute (2011). Real to me: Girls and reality TV. New York City, NY: Girl Scout Research Institute. https://www.girlscouts.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsusa/forms-and-documents/about-girl-scouts/research/real_to_me_factsheet.pdf