Good Lessons Here *IF* Parents Also Watch and Discuss
Survivor is one of the very few non-PBS programs our family watches. Before I ever saw it, I would ridicule and make fun of those who did watch it. Now we are hooked. My son is 12.
I think kids starting around 11-12 can watch this program, but that's ONLY if parents are watching with them and discussing a lot of what goes on. Even teens should have parents watching and discussing with them. The show provides many opportunities to talk about values, ethics and morals -- is it ever OK to lie? If so, when? What personality qualities make a person likable? What behaviors show us that someone is a jerk, or immature, or very self-centered, and that we wouldn't want to be that person's friend if they lived in our town?
Survivor also gives a family a rare chance to observe and discuss group dynamics -- how people function together when they don't know each other well, and when no one is appointed the leader. Why do the best leaders -- the most likable and competent people -- never win the million dollars? How do the people who last the longest manage to do it? (Answer: they either lie and manipulate people, or they never initiate anything -- they stay quiet, work hard and go along with others rather than leading anything on their own.) What can we tell about a person's basic, true personality by the way they function in the group, especially during the first few days?
Sometimes people swear and that's bleeped out. Sometimes a swimsuit will fall down or a person might otherwise be exposed -- this is digitized over with a "blurring" effect. Occasionally they get some wine -- that provides an opportunity to discuss what happens to you when you drink -- you lose judgement and say things you otherwise would never want to say. One episode had a situation where a woman wrongly accused a man of improper sexual advances. The entire camp witnessed the high drama and confrontations that spanned more than one week of the show. At first I was dismayed, but then used it as a great opportunity to talk about the potential for real misunderstanding between a man and a woman, and how honest communication is much better than accusations and hysteria.
It's also important to discuss Survivor as a media production. It is NOT a reality show -- in reality, 16 people plus cameramen would not be plunked down in the middle of nowhere. There are frequent opportunities to discuss how the producers make us (the viewers) think something is going to happen because of what video they show, but then by the end (or next week) you are surprised by what happens, and then you know that the editors and producers simply chose not to show the conversations and situations that would have clued you in. This provides lessons about "what is TV, really?" and "why do they do it that way?".
You'll see great cinematography in the outdoor setttings -- landscapes, ocean and animal shots. The Reward and Immunity "challenges" are imaginative and clever. In the end, it's only TV and we could live without this show, but it's easy to see why Survivor has survived so much longer than any of the other so-called reality shows.