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Mean girls? U.S. study casts light on reality TV’s impact

WASHINGTON, Oct 16, 2011 (AFP) -- Girls who regularly watch reality television expect -- and accept -- more bullying and drama in their lives, a just-released study in the United States suggested.

They also assign more value to physical appearances, and to view themselves as leaders and role models, according to the nationwide survey by the research wing of the Girl Scouts of the United States.
 
Paris Hilton, left, and Nicole Richie are pictured in this undated company photo. Hilton and Richie star in the Fox television series
Paris Hilton, left, and Nicole Richie are pictured in this undated company photo. Hilton and Richie star in the Fox television series "The Simple Life 2: Road Trip," part of the network's lineup of shows premiering in June. (Bloomberg)

Some 1,141 girls aged 11 through 17 took part in the survey conducted in April that offers a snapshot of the impact reality TV might be having on youngsters as they go through adolescence.

“We had no idea what we were going to find,” Kimberlee Salmond, senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute, told AFP in a telephone interview from New York on Friday.

“We were kind of surprised to find such a huge difference between girls who regularly consume reality TV and those who don’t,” she said. “And in general, most girls actually think that reality TV is real and unscripted television.”

The genre is as old as the medium itself, starting life in the form of game shows, but it has exploded worldwide in the past decade thanks to the rapid growth of cable and satellite channels.

It’s also cheaper to produce than scripted programming -- and it travels well, with such European franchises as “Big Brother” from the Netherlands and “Strictly Come Dancing” from Britain exported to all continents.

In the United States, watching television -- of any kind -- remains “the number one activity” for American girls, taking up about 12 hours of their time every week, Salmond said.

“It far outpaces time spent on homework, friends or social networking sites, or completing extracurricular work,” she added.

Out of all girls surveyed, and Salmond said the sample was representative of American society, about half are regular reality TV viewers -- and their outlook on life differed from that of their peers who prefer other programming.

Seventy-eight percent of the reality TV watchers, for instance, were more likely to agree that gossiping was normal in relationships between girls, compared with 54 percent who did not among the rest of the girls surveyed.

Sixty-eight percent thought it was in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive, compared with 50 percent of the non-reality viewers, and 63 percent found it tough to trust other girls, compared with 50 percent.

Reality TV fans were also more likely to believe that girls must compete for a boy’s attention, that dating and boyfriends makes them happier, to spend a lot of time on their appearance and to attribute a girl’s value to her looks.

They were more likely, too, to believe that you have to lie to get what you want (37 percent versus 24 percent), that meanness gets you more respect (37 percent versus 25 percent) and that you have to be mean to others to get what you want (28 percent versus 18 percent).

That said, the majority of girls watching reality TV saw themselves to be mature, smart, funny and outgoing, the study suggested. They were also more inclined to aspire to leadership and to see themselves as role models.

What’s more, 65 percent said reality TV had exposed them to new ideas and perspectives. Slightly smaller percentages credited such shows for raising their awareness of social issues or teaching them new things.

Salmond, whose team has previously studied the impact of fashion and social networking on girls, said the survey uncovered a preference among American girls for competition and makeover shows, such as “American Idol” and “The Biggest Loser” (a weight-loss contest) respectively.

Less appealing were so-called “real life” shows such as “Jersey Shore,” which follows a posse of distinctly unrefined young adults, and -- interestingly -- dating shows such as “The Bachelor.”



<한글 기사>

리얼리티 쇼, 10대 소녀에 악영향?

TV 리얼리티 프로그램을 시청한 10대 소녀는 그렇지 않은 동년배보다 경쟁 심리와 외모의 가치를 자연스럽게 받아들이며 친구를 불신하는 비율도 높다는 설문 결과가 나왔다.

미국 걸스카우트는 16일(현지시간) 11~17세 소녀 1천141명을 대상으로 리얼리티 프로그램 시청 여부에 따른 의식 상태를 조사한 결과 인간관계나 삶에 대한 태도 등 에서 큰 차이를 보였다고 밝혔다.

이번 설문에서 리얼리티 프로그램 시청자 중 78%는 동성과의 인간관계에서 남의 뒷얘기를 하는 것은 일반적인 일이라고 답해 이 프로그램을 시청하지 않는 응답자의 54%보다 비율이 높았다.

또한 리얼리티 시청자의 68%는 상대방에게 심술궂게 대하고 경쟁적인 심리는 여 성의 본성이라는데 동의했지만 반대쪽에선 50%만이 인식을 함께했다.

다른 동성 친구에 대한 신뢰도에서도 프로그램 시청자의 63%가 믿기 어렵다고 응답했고 비시청자 중에서는 이보다 낮은 50%가 같은 대답을 했다.

리얼리티 TV 팬들은 여성이 남성의 주의를 얻으려면 경쟁을 해야 하고 데이트와 남자친구가 자신을 더 행복하게 만든다고 생각하는 것으로 조사됐다.

외모를 가꾸는 데 시간을 들이는 것은 자연스러운 일이므로 외모가 여성의 중요 한 가치라고 여기고 있었다.

이와 함께 원하는 것을 얻으려면 거짓말을 해야 한다는 응답도 시청자(37%)와 비시청자(24%) 간에 대조를 보였다.

이런 ‘비열함’으로 더 많은 존경을 얻을 수 있다는 인식도 시청 여부에 따라 37 % 대 25%로 역시 차이를 나타냈고 바라는 것을 얻으려고 남들에게 더 나쁘게 대해야 한다는 데에도 28% 대 18%로 다른 결과를 얻었다.

시청자 그룹의 대다수는 리얼리티 프로그램이 자신을 똑똑하고 외향적으로 만들 며 자신을 리더 또는 역할 모델(role model)로 보고 싶어하는 것으로 분석됐다. 65% 는 리얼리티 프로그램을 통해 새로운 사고를 접한다고 답했다.

미 걸스카우트 연구소의 킴벌리 샐몬드는 “이번 조사는 참가자들이 나와 경쟁을 펼치거나 변신한 모습을 보여주는 프로그램에 대한 미국 소녀들의 선호도와 절반 정 도는 이런 프로그램을 본다는 미국사회의 단면을 보여준다”고 설명했다.

샐몬드는 “이들의 TV 시청 시간은 매주 12시간으로 숙제나 과외활동보다 훨씬 많다”며 “리얼리티 프로그램 시청 여부에 따른 인식 차가 이렇게 크다는 점이 매우 놀랍다”고 말했다.

리얼리티 프로그램은 대부분 실제상황에서 참가자들의 경쟁을 유도해 최종 합격 자를 뽑는 과정으로 구성되며 최근 10년 사이 케이블과 위성채널의 급속한 성장에 힘입어 전 세계적인 유행을 얻고 있다.



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