Thanks to Reality TV, Bullying May Be Higher in Teens, Especially During the Holiday Season

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Parents who let their girls watch reality TV should be ready for a higher level of drama and bullying in their lives, reports CBS News )http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7389821n&tag=mncol;lst;1). Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil notes this is likely because reality TV is produced in such a way that highlights drama to make shows more watch-worthy. "Teen girls are easily impressionable," says Dr. Bonnie, "and seeing their favorite characters on TV behave in a certain way will influence their behavior."

Parents who let their girls watch reality TV should be ready for a higher level of drama and bullying in their lives, reports CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7389821n&tag=mncol;lst;1). Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil notes this is likely because reality TV is produced in such a way that highlights drama to make shows more watch-worthy. "Teen girls are easily impressionable," says Dr. Bonnie, "and seeing their favorite characters on TV behave in a certain way will influence their behavior."

Additionally, around this time of year, stress is higher and pressure to have the latest, coolest gifts and gadgets can be higher as well. Kids are also feeling the cut-backs of a troubled economy, too, and may act out by bullying. Pair this with a "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality often perpetuated by reality TV and parents may have a recipe for disaster. To this end, Dr. Bonnie suggests parents turn off the TV and have their kids keep these things in mind:

  • Reality TV isn't Real: These shows are created to be exciting and enticing. Consequences often aren't taken into account during the 30 or 60 minutes of a show - but these potentially painful outcomes are things teens need to be aware of. Just because they don't see the fallout caused by someone's behavior - or because that fallout looks semi-glamorous on TV - doesn't free them from dealing with painful results in their own life.

"Teens use the glamour of reality shows as a role model," says Dr. Bonnie. "This can lead to them being violent, sadistic or bullying." Dr. Bonnie suggests parents watch the shows before their kids do to screen for appropriate content. If it's something that's popular with their peers, kids may want to watch the show in spite of the content. In these cases, Dr. Bonnie recommends parents watch the shows with their teens. During this time, parents can let their kids know these shows aren't reality, and use it as an opportunity to teach empathy - which is the opposite of bullying.

  • Communication is Crucial: Parents should use a version of "Smart Heart Skills and Dialogue" which Dr. Bonnie recommends for adults as a safe space for communication. "Your kid may be the bully, or they may experience bullying," says Dr. Bonnie, "and they need a place to be honest about what's going on." Dr. Bonnie suggests having a specific time for parents to check in with their kids each week and ask tough questions about what their child's relationships and behavior looks like. "Then give them an opportunity to be honest with their answers and know that you won't get angry." When using Dr. Bonnie's Smart Heart, parents should explain to kids, for example: 'reality TV portrayals are over-corrections, exaggerated forms of life, and sensationalism, not reality.' "In other words," says Dr. Bonnie, "use Smart Heart to say: 'don't do as the reality shows say or do!'"

Creating communication and trust with a child will help provide accountability for students that might tend toward bullying. It's also helpful for kids that are at risk of being bullied. Many children won't offer up information on their own; parents need to be sure they're the person asking questions says Dr. Bonnie.

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Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of the 2010 New York Times Reader’s Choice Award winning book Make Up Don’t Break Up with accompanying DVD Falling in Love and Staying In Love. Dr. Bonnie counsels couples considering breaking up, people who have committed adultery, and couples who want to strengthen their relationships damaged by resentment or unresolved anger, teaching people to “fight” to increase passion, bring back magic and restore the sizzle. Dr. Bonnie teaches Smart Heart Dialogue along with communication and connection tools, and counsel’s families and children.

Known as “The Adultery Buster” and the “No. 1 Love Expert,” she is the best-selling author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin (adapted into a Lifetime movie starring actress Kate Jackson) Coming Nov 2011 as eBook, Make Up Don't Break Up, Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples (Revised edition Feb 2010, including DVD How to Fall in Love and Stay in Love for Singles and Couples), Can We Cure and Forgive Adultery?, How Not to (S)mother Your Man and Keep a Woman Happy, and Financial Infidelity.

Dr. Bonnie has appeared on a Discovery Health documentary titled "Unfaithful" and A&E on addictions. ABC’s Good Morning America, a three-day series on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show five times, a four day series on Fox TV regarding dating. She appears frequently on ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC News, The View, 20/20, and CNN. Visit Dr. Bonnie at http://www.DoctorBonnie.com.

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