From a young age, we’re restricted by our parents to watch only what’s appropriate for our age. As a kid who paid attention to her surroundings, I realized that what I saw happening in my own neighborhood was nothing worse than reality TV.
We would frequently hear that reality TV shows feed into negative stereotypes such as women being dramatic or weaker than men.
Yes, women can be falsely portrayed, but they’re not stereotypes that are unfamiliar. It’s human nature to have stereotypes about a group of people, and we usually learn these stereotypes from our own families.
Despite all the negative stereotypes, there are positive messages and positive stereotypes being transmitted as well. Shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” don’t necessarily promote negative stereotypes. In fact, they can be taken as educational shows, where young girls can see what it’s like to be a struggling teen mom. Some of us have been seeing teen moms since high school. We were told that they usually will drop out of school and focus on their baby. It’s in shows like these where we see that not every girl fits the stereotype of being a teen mom, and being a dropout.
In a study by economists, Phillip B. Levine from Wellesley College and Melissa S. Kearney from the University of Maryland, it was shown that there were a decrease in teen pregnancies, after the airing of shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant.” Their research found to a 4.3 reduction in teen pregnancies estimate.
“82 percent of teens who report watching ‘16 and Pregnant’ indicate that it ‘helps teens better understand the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood,’” the research wrote.
The same way a show like “Jersey Shore” can feed into the stereotype that young people from New Jersey are tan-loving drunks, a show like “The Voice” can feed into the stereotype that a lot of people from Los Angeles think they have talent. And is that so bad, if it encourages young and talented individuals to take a risk and chase their dreams?
A variety of reality shows are there to educate and expose the youth to what is around them. Teens will not intake negative stereotypes from TV if they’re educated beforehand and are taught to love their bodies, to be strong and to appreciate their culture.