According to a new study conducted by UCLA psychologists, fame and fortune are at the top of the list of most valued traits in popular shows aimed at pre-teen audiences. The researchers looked at 16 separate values and how they were ranked in 1987, 1997 and again in 2007. They examined the values portrayed by characters on popular television shows of the time, such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Happy Days,” “American Idol” and “Hannah Montana.” Yalda T. Uhls, lead author of the study, says, “I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years. I thought fame would be important but did not expect this drastic an increase or such a dramatic decrease in other values, such as community feeling. If you believe that television reflects the culture, as I do, then American culture has changed drastically.”
The results, which were compiled from Neilson demographic data as well as surveys of adults who viewed the shows, showed that benevolence, tradition and community feeling, which had previously ranked in the top slots, had all dropped significantly and were replaced by fame, popularity, achievement, image and financial success. The researchers believe this study explains the dramatic rise in narcissism in our culture. “Changes we have seen in narcissism and empathy are being reflected on television. In the past, children had their home, community and school; now they have thousands of ‘friends’ who look at their photos and their posts and comment on them,” says Uhls. “The growth of social media gives children access to an audience beyond the school grounds.” She is deeply concerned at the impact the messages of television and social media are having on our youth and self-image. “Preteens are at an age when they want to be popular, just like the famous teenagers they see on TV and the Internet,” she says. “When being famous and rich is much more important than being kind to others, what will happen to kids as they form their values and their identities?”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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