Since the first series of Big Brother Australia aired in 2001, the nation has been in the grips of reality TV fever — but are the constant arguments and vicious gossip captured on today's hit shows making our kids mean?
Parenting expert and psychotherapist Robi Ludwig is convinced the bad behaviour flaunted in popular programmes like Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives and The Only Way is Essex is negatively influencing teen audiences.
While girls might not imitate the violent brawls seen on their favourite shows, Ludwig says they do mimic other behaviour because TV tells them that "nasty and mean" girls are the most popular.
"Relational aggression, which is very common amongst girls, is where there's increased gossip and being nasty to one another," Ludwig told the US Today show yesterday.
"The truth is, if kids are watching these kinds of interactions, the message is 'You're popular if you're nasty and mean.' Girls who identify with that will certainly make that a part of their mental script."
Ludwig says it is up to parents to make sure their daughters don't become mean girls. She recommends watching shows with children and pointing out the negative consequences of TV character's gossiping and nastiness.
"If parents train their kids to think critically, that makes all the difference in the world," Ludwig says.
"Train your child to say, 'How do you think the victim feels in this situation?' Then you're really teaching empathy and you're using what's part of this media diet in an effective way."
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