Reality shows are popular amongst teenagers not only in the US, but all over the world. And their significant contribution on kids and young adults is pretty detrimental – they inculcate terrible habits like drinking and smoking among kids under age.
Statistically, reality shows are on a sharp rise; according to a report, 3 out of 4 girls between 12 to 17 years age stated that these were their favourite television shows. With such profound level of penetration, when top shows like Love Island, Made in Chelsea, Celebrity Big Brother, The Only Way is Essex, and Geordie Shore expose kids to drinking and smoking, it has a very negative impact on them.
Out of 112 episodes aired last year, alcohol was shown in all of them; consumption of the same was included in 18% of one-minute clips, and indirect consumption presenting characters holding drinks was in 34% of clips. Smoking was also featured in 18% of episodes.
Referring to the viewing statistics and the total exposure to smoking and drinking on TV, researchers estimate it has chances of exposing 580 million children to alcohol and 47 million to smoking. A study by researchers at Nottingham University, led by Alexander Barker, concluded, “Reality TV programmes are a major source of exposure to young people in the UK and is likely to be a contributor to smoking and alcohol uptake by young people.
They continued, “Reality TV programmes, while usually broadcast after the 9 p.m. watershed, are widely seen and accessed by young people and that this genre of programme is exposing young people to tobacco and alcohol content.”
All of these programmers abide by the regulations of Ofcom, and they air their TV shows depicting the use of alcohol or tobacco or any either substance that may glamourize their consumption post 9 p.m. But the ease with each young adults get to watch them is because of the umpteen catch-up service options.
These TV programs have also been accused of making people conscious of their appearance, hurting their self-confidence, and possibly making them resort to harmful cosmetic procedures. The amount of pressure on participants at times is so abnormal that they tend to suffer from emotional problems and commit suicide; like, two former Love Island contestants did in 2018 and 2019.
Barker said, “Tighter scheduling rules, such as restricting the amount of content and branding shown in these programmes, could prevent children and adolescents from being exposed to the tobacco and alcohol content.”
However, it is essential for parents to note that young adults might be exposed to violent, obscene, and harmful content through various other sources than Reality TV shows. So to give proper guidance to kids, the first step that parents need to take is – spend quality time with them. Sadly enough, according to recent stats, parents on an average spend only 38.5 minutes/week in having a meaningful conversation with their children – this needs to be worked upon!