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Should I worry that my kid loves reality shows with characters who binge-drink?
It's possible that your kids enjoy these shows because they would never, ever act like the people on them. But there are a few reasons to keep an eye on them. Studies show that alcohol consumption by TV characters cultivates an interest in -- and a positive association with -- drinking. Also, reality shows have lots of alcohol commercials (both product placements and sponsored ads). Watching a lot of commercials for alcoholic beverages can lead to underage drinking.
If your kids develop an interest in reality shows, try watching a few episodes together and get in your two cents about what these shows really are. Explain that they're not realistic and that they're doing anything and everything to attract viewers. Share your own values around appropriate behavior, what responsible adult drinking looks like, and the way you want your kids to treat others.
Talk about the consequences. Discuss the consequences the characters endure after drinking too much: embarrassment, social isolation, physical and psychological harm, risky situations, misunderstandings. And explain the real-life consequences of underage drinking, bingeing, and other alcohol-related behavior.
Explain that reality shows aren't reality. Your kids may already sense this, but "reality" can be scripted, planned, strategically edited, and engineered for maximum impact. Very few people in real life behave the way reality show characters do -- it's just not a realistic way of being.
Talk about the role alcohol plays. In a way, alcohol acts as another character on the show, one that disrupts friendships, makes people say mean things, and encourages extreme behavior. Reality shows are notorious for manipulating characters with alcohol and encouraging fights.
Look at the sponsors. Note how many booze commercials play during the show, and talk about characters who are promoting their own line of alcohol-related products. Help your kid connect the dots between advertisements, product placements, and acceptance of binge drinking.
Get more tips about alcohol in the media.