What Is The Impact of Reality Shows On Younger Generation?

anxiety children depression technology Mar 16, 2023

Updated by Sophia Ruan Gushée


While reality shows have been around since the 1940s, the genre has enjoyed periodic meteoric growth. For example, in the 1970s, An American Family enjoyed 10 million viewers. In 1992, MTV’s The Real World premiered and enjoyed fewer viewers than An American Family with an audience of approximately 1-2 million, but it engaged a younger demographic to watch how people with diverse values and perspectives would get along.

Since The Real World, reality shows have become established as its own genre. And while they can be very entertaining, it’s worth considering, What is the impact of reality shows on youth? 

In this article, we will explore the impact of reality shows on younger generation. Are there negative effects of reality tv on youth? The article will also share tips to help parents support a healthier understanding of reality TV.

What Is A Reality Show?

Reality shows document unscripted real-life situations featuring a cast of ordinary individuals, rather than actors.

Documentaries, talk shows, and traditional game shows are not usually classified as reality TV, even though they contain some elements of the genre.

Popular examples of reality shows include America's Got Talent, Dancing With The Stars, The VoiceKeeping Up with Kardashians, and America’s Next Top Model.

The Upside of Reality Shows

Some reality shows—like Top Chef, Shark Tank, and Undercover Bosscan be educational, inspiring, and motivational for children to watch. They can introduce children to worthwhile pursuits and risks, like cooking, baking, or entrepreneurial ventures. Who knows, maybe watching one of these shows can inspire your child to become the next Martha Stewart or Bill Gates!

While there are many advantages to watching certain reality shows, it's helpful to be mindful of the disadvantages too.

The Impact of Reality Shows on Younger Generation

With the unprecedented popularity of reality shows including among the younger generation, it’s worth wondering about the negative impact of reality shows on youth. Are there negative effects of reality tv? Some worry of reality shows exploitation of young mind.

Research has shown that, while mature audiences may be able to distinguish between reality and reality television, it's harder for children and adolescents to do so. The effect of reality shows on youth can vary from positive effects—like inspiration, compassion, and healthy entertainment—to negative ones. Examples of reality tv negative effects are below.

1. Lowered self-esteem from unrealistic beauty standards. Many reality TV shows feature unrealistic beauty standards and promote the idea that a person's value is based on their appearance. Watching too much reality TV increases the likelihood that children will compare themselves to the people on the show, which can result in low self-esteem. These shows are also often highly-sexualized and may be inappropriate for younger children to watch.

2. Distorted values. Reality shows often include partying, drinking, and focus on material things. For example, the cast of Jersey Shore spent a lot of time binge drinking, engaging in risky behavior, and even getting arrested. The values of children watching this type of behavior be rewarded with money and popularity—like with a reality show—may be negatively influential.

3. Normalization of aggression and bullying. Reality shows often focus on interpersonal drama, including bullying, gossiping, and aggression. The Real Housewives franchise regularly features gossiping and cattiness. It also projects the false image that female relationships are divisive and competitive and that being mean is the only way to earn respect. If a child sees this type of aggressive behavior depicted as normal, they may begin to emulate it when interacting with their friends. They'll think this is normal.

4. Unrealistic image of success. Reality shows rarely depict the intelligence and success of their cast members. For example, many of the Real Housewives are successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists in their real lives. However, we do not see that in the show, because the camera is always focused on the drama going on in their lives. Seeing this type of reality depicted on a show can give the younger generation a skewed idea of what it takes to be successful.

7 Parenting Tips To Support A Healthier Relationship With Reality Shows

The drama and extreme behaviors and lifestyles that reality shows portray are an exploitation of young minds in that the reality shows successfully hook youthful attention and distort their expectations of reality. While reality shows are detrimental to our youths in some ways, they can also be enjoyed with minimal negative effects and benefits too.

Tips to protect against the negative effects of reality tv on youth are below.

  1. Watch reality shows with your child. It will help you determine if the content is appropriate for your child and give you an opportunity to ask them questions about it.
  2. Discuss the “reality” of reality TV. While reality TV appears to be “real,” children should know that it is actually a highly-sensationalized version of reality.
  3. Ask what your child thinks is real. Do they think people in real life act this way? Have they seen similar behavior in their friend group?
  4. Try to figure out if the TV images have affected your child. Do they envy the lives of the cast? Is there anything they wish they could change about themselves to become more like some of the cast members?
  5. Talk to your child about why they like certain charactersThis can show you what values your child may or may not be trying to emulate.
  6. Ask them what their friends are watching. This should give you a better idea of the type of content your child may be exposed to. Most children watch the same shows so they can discuss them with their friends.
  7. Help your child think critically about what they see on TV. Commenting when something seems scripted or unrealistic can help your child develop better critical thinking skills and be less affected by reality shows.

Final Thoughts

The impact of reality shows on younger generation can be negative if parents are not involved. Reality shows are designed to grab attention with an extreme setup, thereby portraying unusual drama and lifestyles. While this is an exploitation of young minds, with parental engagement and healthy conversations, watching reality shows with your kids can create invaluable benefits. This is true for all of our interactions with technology, including using social media and online gaming. Talking to your kids about what they see on their digital screens—and interpret from—can help children be better prepared for reality.

For more invaluable tips to nurture a healthy relationship with technology, check out our EMF Detox program at the D-Tox Academy. It was created to reduce the average person's, or an average family's, EMF (electromagnetic fields) exposure from technology, but a natural byproduct from the practical tips is a healthier balance with technology.

It will help you protect your family from the negative impact of technology without going offline completely. Learn more at EMF Detox at the D-Tox Academy


About Sophia Ruan Gushée

Sophia Ruan Gushée is a preeminent nontoxic lifestyle expert, author of the critically acclaimed books A to Z of D-Toxing and EMF Detox Workbook, creator of D-Tox Academy and 40-Day Home Detox, and host of the Practical Nontoxic Living podcast.

She has helped thousands of people eliminate harmful—often hidden—chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields from their homes and lifestyles. Based on more than 15 years of tracking the latest research, she believes that removing these toxins is the overlooked key to unlocking greater mindfulness, mental clarity, emotional harmony, and physical healing.

Sophia also works with companies and served on the prestigious Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and the exclusive Well+Good Council. She has appeared or been featured on the most popular health and wellness platforms including The Doctor Oz Show, Health magazine, Family Circle magazine, MindBodyGreen, and much more. You can learn more about Sophia by clicking here: Sophia Ruan Gushée.


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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

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