TV Tells Kids Fame is the Most Important Thing in Life, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Tween Culture, Teen Culture, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens


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The most important thing in life is to be a good and kind person, to love yourself and others and take an active and inquisitive interest in the world arou ...


Someone is watching reruns of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on Sunday mornings. Change the channel. That's not what television is teaching kids, according to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The most important thing in life is to be famous. And you don't even have to be famous for being good. You can be famous for being tan.

LiveScience reports researchers looked at the values promoted on television when today's adults were growing up as opposed to what their kids watched. Their conclusion?

Ron Howard can be very proud of himself.

Before he was a film director, he played Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" and Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days." Researchers used both shows -- as well as "The Lucy Show" and "Laverne & Shirley" -- to compare with modern shows like "American Idol" and "Hannah Montana."

They specifically wanted to study the values these shows promoted among 9- to 11-year-olds from 1967 to 2007.

Researchers found the old shows exalted benevolence, self-acceptance, community and tradition, while modern shows stress fame as the No. 1 value.

A sense of community was the No. 1 value back when Fonzie and the gang ruled the airwaves in the 1970s. By 2007, researchers found that value fell to No. 11. The top five values nowadays? Fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success.

Not cool, as the Fonz would say.

"The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture," researcher Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, tells LiveScience. "Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism, but they also reflect the culture."

In 1997, the top five values were community feeling, benevolence (being kind and helping others), image, tradition and self-acceptance. In 2007, benevolence dropped to the 12th spot, while financial success went from 12th place in 1967 and 1997 to fifth in 2007.

The two least emphasized values in 2007 were spiritualism (No. 16) and tradition (No. 15). Tradition had previously ranked No. 4 in 1997.

LiveScience reports researchers analyzed Nielsen demographic data to determine the most popular shows with 9- to 11-year-olds and then conducted a survey of 60 participants, ages 18 to 59, to determine how important each value was in episodes of the various shows.

"The biggest change occurred from 1997 to 2007, when YouTube, Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity," lead researcher Yalda Uhls tells LiveScience. "Their growth parallels the rise in narcissism and the drop in empathy among college students in the United States, as other research has shown."

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