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Believe It or Not, Reality TV Shows Can Be Educational

Some, including 'The Biggest Loser,' contain positive messages for kids.

No doubt there are a whole slew of reality TV shows with no redeeming value to society. Just Google “popular reality TV shows” and you will get pages and pages of gems such as “Swamp People,”  “Bad Girls Club, “Duck Dynasty,” and “Pawn Stars.”

I would give a quick synopsis of these shows, but I didn’t care enough to read them. Today I was on the treadmill watching Entertainment Weekly and there were four ex-wives of various celebrities who are going to be starring together in a show called, “Hollywood Exes.” I’ll wait while you go throw up.

However, there are also reality shows out there that I love and believe are great educational tools and contain positive messages for kids. My personal fave is "The Biggest Loser." I find this show very inspirational because it shows the obstacles real people face in a quest to get healthy. There are no quick fixes, just hard work and determination. I have to say there are days when I don’t want to get up and go to the gym, but I think, “If that 400-pound woman with diabetes can get herself out of bed for spin class, so can I.”   

My family actually watches "The Amazing Race" together. This is an awesome show from an education standpoint. The most obvious positive is that it teaches about world cultures and geography, a subject that is barely addressed in most American schools.

To succeed, contestants have to work together with a partner, be tenacious, and think outside the box.  Along the same lines, "The Apprentice" gives kids an interesting take on the world of business. In this show, the contestants also need to be creative, competitive, and work together with a group to accomplish tasks. In addition, it showcases the importance of good leadership skills, public speaking and attention to details. Is there some excessive drama? Sure, there is always drama when you throw a bunch of people together to complete tasks, which is a reality in both classroom and work environments.

The talent shows like "American Idol" and "America’s Got Talent" create certain teachable moments. I love when they show the stadiums full of people waiting all day to audition. It doesn’t send the “anyone can be a star so drop out of school, quit your job and got for it!” message many may think. It shows the very high level of talent necessary to “make it” and, even then, most of those people don’t have a shot given the intense competition. It all depends on how you approach the subject with your kids.  It is a good time to talk about risks vs. benefits with your child, so basically economics. 

Even some shows that seem to have no redeeming value can be life lessons and open the door for discussion. For example, those bachelor/ette and various housewives shows, which I find repulsive, open the door to discuss relationships, self-esteem, and common human decency. Viewing how these nutjobs treat each other can very effectively bring home the “don’t be like this” message.  It’s really all about watching the shows with your child and using them to open the lines of communication.  

Admiral Nelson June 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM
if the argument can be made that these shows have redeeming values because they show what not to do, you can basically say it for anything. hey johnny see that bank robber, dont do that. i think its safe to say bank robbers are bad for society and have no educational value. no young kid is going to watch jersey shore and not be influenced by it because the parents say so, it just doesnt work that way. i think we can agree that your better off not watching them in the first place, mostly because they're flat out stupid.and im not sure how you streched americas got talent into economics 101....theres really no factual basis or studies for any of these points.
Ann C. Jett June 24, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I can agree with Susan on the shows she listed as her favorite. The Biggest Loser (with the exception of the last season) does teach how faith, determination and willingness to change can transform your life from at risk to healthy. There are few which offer a teachable lesson except to show how far people will go to debase themselves for money. However, I still think that ones that showcase talent and those willing to shoot for a dream are opportunties to show our kids that if you believe in yourself anything in possible.
C. Noujaim June 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Only having watched a couple of episodes of The Biggest Loser, and cringing at it, have they ever done a show showing that these folks have kept off the weight? When you think about it, it isn't a very realistic portrayal of a healthy way to lose weight. They are working out at LEAST 5 hours a day, maybe more, and are on a very restrictive diet. Can you show me anyone who, in reality, has 5 hours a day to work out? I love Downton Abbey, myself, Colleen. (Sometimes I'll watch Hoarders, but that makes me feel like my house is nice and clean..so that's the redeeming value there!)

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