by Jill Seabaugh, LPC
Earlier this month, a news report caught my eye about President Obama not allowing his 10 and 13 year old daughters to watch the Kardashians’ reality show. Other reports stated that the President also told one of the Kardashian sisters that he enjoyed watching the show. Whether you agree or disagree with the President’s political policies, I hope to convince you that their family’s television viewing policy is one you want to adopt for yourself.
Television programming is nothing more than story-telling through a highly advanced device. As a therapist, I often use story-telling as a treatment tool but in a much more low tech way. Story-telling is an effective way to teach life lessons in an easy to remember manner so that the lessons can be applied to many circumstances over time. The use of story-telling in therapy is based on social constructionist theory which states that all human actions can be viewed as an organized effort to create meaning out of personal experiences (Epston & White, 1990). In other words, as we go through the daily events of our life, we basically author a story that ties these moments together and helps us make sense of our experiences. The stories that we create strongly impact our actions, choices, and behavior while also influencing how we develop emotionally and cope with life challenges.
Although we know that most of the shows or stories the media convey are not truly ‘real,’ they continue to be quite influential in how we perceive ourselves, our values, and in how we author our own real life stories. In particular, those shows that market themselves as ‘Reality TV’ attempt to convince the viewers that the story portrayed is ‘real life’ when in fact only a small part of the show has any real component to it. Fortunately, as adults, we do have some safe-guards. We have a large life history from which to filter what we see and hear from our media outlets and we have a greater ability to decipher what is actually realistic and what is highly unlikely and unrealistic. Children however are more easily deceived by stories shown on television particularly by those that appear to be real.
If like our President, one of your guilty pleasures is enjoying the entertainment value of the occasional reality show, then that is fine as long as you keep it in perspective. However, don’t let your children watch. Reality TV is not appropriate entertainment for them. These shows are teaching our children life lessons; Lessons that our children should never learn.