Reality Television Impact on Adolescents

Sara Raheem
Journalism 2

Dangers of Reality Television and Exposure to Adolescents

Various forms of media has taken the world by storm. Ideas being translated and endorsed on paper is becoming a rarity, whereas television and the internet are only gaining momentum. Television unconsciously infers many things to the audience. People are bombarded with over sexualized, grotesque, and biased images by players that control media. Reality television, even though has only become popularized in recent years has proven to influence and impact people, especially teenagers. Although there has been no direct study done showing its influence, multiple studies have shown after substantial intake of reality television, higher levels of aggression are exhibited. With the growth of reality television, although it has not proven to show direct correlation with higher levels of aggression. It has shown that reality television more than regular television, depicts and exerts different types of aggression that are more prominent in everyday life. Behaviors such as isolation and bullying are shown more often. Unlike regular television with scripted actors, reality television claims to show realistic behaviors being exercised by ordinary people. Due to this the audience is unconsciously influenced, making adolescents more tangible on being impacted.


The rapid growing popularity of reality television shows and proves that people are intrigued by dramatic and climatic situations. Reality television is incredibly different from any form of television because it is claiming to be unscripted. Viewers watch reality television with the understanding that “normal” people are on the show, exercising “normal” behavior. Audience members have little knowledge that reality television is mostly manufactured, typically putting individuals through high density, unrealistic circumstances. Teenagers view reality television and show more subsceptabilty towards becoming influenced. It is uncertain whether teenagers are more affected by reality television and if it hinders their media literacy. Media literacy is how the audience consumes information being translated to them. Each person intakes information differently due to their race, class and gender making media literacy a crucial method of understanding now. According to Media Psychology, A study examined 174 adolescents heavily exposed to socially aggressive reality television shows. The outcome showed that teeangers exercised higher levels of indirect, social and relational aggression. Physical aggression does not play a prominent part of reality television. In most reality television shows they often show a “black sheep” in the pack of people, creating an socially isolating environment for the person being targeted. In many ways, reality television consistently shows a level of bullying, fixating upon a person’s insecurities. Indirect aggression is coverly harming someone. Relational aggression is harming someone through passive aggressive means such as rumours, breaking confidences and shattering someone’s reputation, and social aggression is the combination of both. Shows such as Jersey Shore and the Real World have clearly depicted all three types of aggressive.


Although many people associate reality television with untamed trashy behavior by a group of people, other forms reality television can cause bigger issues. Reality shows that focuses on cosmetic surgeries effect body perception, creating a skewed perspective that changing your body can be normal. According to L. M. Ward, the concept of “Perceived realism,” was introduced. In the article “Modeling Meanness: Associations Between Reality TV Consumption, Perceived Realism, and Adolescents’ Social Aggression,” a survey involving six questions is conducted. The participants were asked if they believe that reality television shows display an accurate depiction of real life scenarios. Reality television creates a level of normalcy. Attitudes towards sex, drugs and physical appearance becomes heavily emphasized creating an massive influence. Shows such as “Who wants to marry a millionaire?” have negative effects on teenagers perspective on sex and dating. According to the Article “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? Reality Dating Television Programs, Attitudes Toward Sex, and Sexual Behaviors” claim that, “reality programs such as RDP’s might have stronger effects than more scripted programs such as situation comedies or soap operas.” Media literacy is incredibly important to teach to adolescents due to the vulnerability they face when watching reality shows. Although teenagers have shown higher levels of aggression after intaking substantial amounts of unscripted television, it has also shown higher levels of social interaction. Another reason why reality television has such increasing popularity is because it creates content for a conversation. Many teenagers watch reality television and discuss the obscene and inappropriate behavior being shown. According to Donnelly, Reality Television has encouraged teenagers in outwardly expressing their opinions on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The spark of conversations helps create an social environment which encourages friendships.


Gender, class and race play huge parts in audiences perception about the world. Television shows frequently display young, attractive caucasian actors ambushing television screens. Reality television shows no difference showing the majority of people involved in reality shows being caucasian. Audience members watching reality shows showing only attractive young caucasian individuals creates an unnatural depiction of the world. According to Ward “reality TV consumption, our findings indicate that higher rates of reality television viewing are indeed associated with more social aggression.” The amount of aggression expressed by teenagers is not determined by gender, but findings conclude that majority of people presenting socially aggressive behavior were caucasian. Teenagers were found to be more socially aggressive towards one another. Other findings showed that adolescents watching socially aggressive television naturally found themselves intrigued by socially aggressive music videos and movies. The consistent amounts of social aggression being shown on various media outlets soon take up to forty percent of content an adolescent becomes exposed too.


The importance of media literacy is crucial and should be taught to many young people who are constantly exposed to media. Although many people are aware that media is skewed to a certain degree, they are unaware and blinded to how powerful media is. The translation and execution of how a message is handled creates the difference on how severely or passively it will be taken. Reality television is a dangerous form of television because it requires the knowledge of media literacy. Reality television commonly shows unrealistic situations with attractive people, heavily focusing on sex and appearances. The importance of understanding that the messages and inferences being made within reality television is manufactured. Adolescents are exposed to concepts such as bullying, isolation and psychological torture at a young age.


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