My husband, Dalton Ross, makes a living writing about reality TV for EW. And yet, he is the only one in our house who watches it. I just can’t do it anymore. But I have viewed enough of these shows to have an opinion about its suitability for our kids.
We don’t let our kids watch Survivor, Big Brother, Celebrity Apprentice, or any of the other shows that Dalton covers. A lot of the kids’ friends do watch, and other parents are always shocked that ours don’t. (One of our 12-year-old son’s friends even reads Dalton’s Survivor recaps and quizzes him on the show.) I have a good reason for the ban, and Dalton actually agrees with me. I think reality TV teaches kids to be mean and deceitful. And children internalize and mimic the things they see. Want proof? Let a preteen watch iCarly, and then listen to her speak; it’s a complete unconscious impression of Sam and/or Carly.
Early American Idol was out because Simon was so vicious. I didn’t want the kids to think cutting people down was an acceptable way to treat others. We have elaborate anti-bullying programs in our schools. Why let the kids go home and watch a bully on TV getting ahead in the world?
Any reality TV show where people deceive each other to “win the game” is blacklisted, too. Also, trashy women are disallowed. There goes 90 percent of the fall reality TV lineup, from Real Housewives, to Snooki, to Kardashians, to Dance Moms.
After they went to a party at a cousin’s house and watched America’s Got Talent, which I think is pretty benign as far as that type of programming goes, the kids just seemed confused. Violet, age 9, actually made the point that when kids at school talk about these shows, she has nothing to say. I directed her to change the conversation. “Talk about all the books you read over the summer,” I said.
“Mommy,” she scoffed. “No one wants to talk about books.”
I didn’t have an answer for that one.