"We’re setting up our culture to being over-reactive."—Sarah Coyne
Teachers and school leaders know that TV and other media contribute to short attention spans and missing homework assignments. Now we learn from USA Today that reality TV may be teaching our already active and sometimes emotional teens to over-react.
Most mature adults understand that the reactions we see on reality and cable TV are “largely for effect,” are over-gradient, and often inappropriate. However, behavioral researchers believe that we may be more affected than we realize. The problem for teachers and school leaders is that these shows are most often viewed by growing, developing, and easily influenced teens, whose sense of emotional norms may become exaggerated.
"People can be seduced into thinking that’s the most common way of reacting to life, when it’s not," says Roderick Hart, a professor of communication studies and government at the University of Texas-Austin. Because of this "tutoring" of emotions, Hart says, people are becoming culturally conditioned to think, "it’s OK to be more over-reactive."
"Reality television has hyped all the emotions. You can’t just be happy. You have to be ecstatic. You can’t be upset. You have to be violently angry," he says.
We may just have a new emotional rollercoaster and we may not enjoy the ride.