Want your daughters to be assertive leaders? Have them watch reality TV! Of course, the side effect is they will be meaner, more likely to lie, more likely to mistrust and gossip, and more likely to feel their looks define who they are.

That is the mixed bag of survey results released today by the Girls Scouts Research Institute. The responses of 1,141 girls ages 11 to 17 were compared based on whether they regularly watched reality TV. (52 percent characterized themselves as regular viewers.)

"Girls today are bombarded with media -- reality TV and otherwise -- that more frequently portrays girls and women in competition with one another rather than in support or collaboration. This perpetuates a 'mean-girl' stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls," said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a developmental psychologist with Girl Scouts of the USA. "We don't want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them, along with their parents, to know what they are getting into when they watch it."

There is no proof from this survey that watching reality TV causes any behavior change. It might be that aggressive girls are drawn to reality TV, rather than that reality TV causes girls to become aggressive. (With that in mind, know that my introduction to this blog was facetious. There's no proof that reality TV will turn your daughter into the school bully or the class president.) It's clear from the survey that girls aren't lemmings; the vast majority know that the makers of reality programs are trying to gain attention by portraying girls as mean or as drama queens.

So here's the good about girls who are regular reality TV viewers:

  1. More likely than non-viewers to aspire to leadership (46% vs. 27%).
  2. More likely to think they are currently seen as a leader (75% vs. 63%).
  3. More likely to see themselves as role models for other girls (75% vs. 61%).

The bad:

  1. More likely to think that gossiping between girls is normal (78% vs. 54%).
  2. More likely to think girls are naturally catty with one another (68% vs. 50%).
  3. Less likely to trust other girls (63% vs. 50%).
  4. More likely to think they must compete for a boy's attention (78% vs. 54%).
And the plain depressing:
  1. More likely to believe you have to lie to get what you want (37% vs. 24%).
  2. More likely to believe being mean earns more respect than being nice (37% vs. 25%).
  3. More likely to believe you have to be mean to others to get what you want (28% vs. 18%).
I thought about embedding a video of the worst of reality TV girl fights, but they were obnoxious. We're way beyond Survivor, folks! Here's a decent exploration of the issue by ABC's Nightline from earlier this year:





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