By the time we're adults, most of us have figured out the difference between the kind of behavior that would get us booked on a reality show and the kind of behavior that leads to healthy, productive lives. But kids and teens are still figuring out who they are. And they're using television -- at least partly -- as a barometer of what's socially acceptable.
(See the first five Worst TV Role Models)
Talking about TV characters and their choices can be a great way to start conversations with your kids about their own behavior. Are your kids absorbing messages from any of these characters?
6. All the Housewives, Real Housewives of Orange County, Beverly Hills, New York City, New Jersey, etc.
These materialistic drama queens are poor role models for many, many reasons. But we particularly dislike the way they constantly gang up against each other and form mean-girl alliances.
Why it matters: Being mean to others is so much easier in today's 24/7 digital world. Between social media, texting, and email, being a cyberbully has never been so easy.
What you can do: Encourage kids to think before they post. And remind them not to say anything online that they wouldn't say face to face. And if they've been bullied -- online or otherwise -- teach them how to respond.
7. Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Gossip Girl
Backstabbing and always out to be queen bee, Blair is the ultimate mean girl ... with a killer wardrobe.
Why it matters: Blair's fashionable ways and runway style make her a key target for young viewers to look up to. And when kids who visit the Gossip Girl website can buy the clothes right off the backs of their favorite characters, Blair and her prep school buddies become covert salespeople targeting a key demographic -- your teens.
What you can do: Arm kids with the critical thinking skills to help them see through the hype and understand when they're being marketed to. Kids hate to feel manipulated, and when they understand that underneath promotions, free downloads, movie websites, or apps is plain and simple advertising, they'll be warier.
8. Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), Weeds
She makes consistently terrible parenting decisions, getting her sons caught up in a world of drug dealing, crime, and violence.
Why it matters: Outrageous -- not to mention illegal -- parenting behavior sends a message that abandoning responsibility is the only option when life gets overwhelming.
What you can do: You'd probably never miss a soccer game or back-to-school night, but do you know the ESRB ratings of your kids' favorite video games? Do you let your little kids surf the web unsupervised? Did you know that your Wii can surf the web or that your kid has a MySpace page? Get involved in your kids' digital life so that you can make informed media choices.
9. Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Shortcake Bitty Berry Adventures
OK, she's not actually that bad. But her character has morphed from a cute, plump kid in baggy jeans to a svelte tween with a glamorous hairdo. What's up with that? On top of that, she and her berry-named friends tend to needs lots of reassurance for every decision they make, and their vocations tend toward the stereotypical (food, dance, hair-care).
Why it matters: Girls are increasingly being sexualized in the media at a younger age, leading to a limited sense of self.
What you can do: Watch out for stereotypes in TV shows and other media, and point out when girls are rewarded for their looks and boys for their strength. Teach kids to question these messages and reinforce behaviors that don't emphasize their looks.
10. Candace (Ashley Tisdale), Phineas and Ferb
Her primary motivations are pleasing her boyfriend and getting her brothers in trouble. All while being a screechy, whiny stereotype of a girl.
Why it matters: In the media, women are still too often relegated to the roles of love interest, sex object, selfless saint, or nitpicky nag -- despite overwhelming real-world evidence to the contrary. When kids see characters portrayed that way over and over, it reinforces gender stereotypes.
What you can do: Talk to your kids about strong female role models who've achieved success through hard work, intelligence, discipline, or business savvy. These can be everyday heroes -- like your child's teacher -- or famous women your family admires or even a strong female character on television.