How the Media Influences Teen Girls Through Unrealistic Expectations

Aug 12, 2021

In the last year, our tweens and teens have become increasingly reliant on their screens and devices. iPads have become school, phones have become a social lifeline, and TV has offered a much-needed distraction from the increasingly intense and scary world going on outside our front doors.

However, it doesn’t take long for a mindless distraction to become something else entirely. Adolescence is a period of rapid development, and many parents have started to worry about how their daughter’s consumption of media has influenced her behaviour and outlook on life. There are many wonderful TV shows out there, but even the most well-intentioned show can influence our daughters negatively through unrealistic expectations.

Let’s talk about the expectations that our daughters are learning from TV and films, and what we as parents, guardians, and mentors can do to help our girls cultivate a healthier and more realistic outlook.

Expectations for Friendship

In TV and film, every character, no matter whether they’re the hero or the villain, seems to have a group of close-knit friends. These friendships are often long-standing and seem to exist effortlessly, with visible work put in by any character. 

For a girl who struggles to make friends, seeing TV and film characters with tons of friends can reinforce the idea that there’s something wrong with her. Even if your daughter has friends already, she should know that friendship takes work. There’s no such thing as a friendship that exists without effort.

To help bring some more realistic expectations into your daughter’s life, you may want to share some stories about the friendships in your life. By helping her understand how much effort goes into maintaining healthy and positive friendships, it will help set her up to achieve the same in the future.

Expectations for Family Life

Even though the media has gotten better about showing non-traditional families, there’s still a bias towards families that are functional, loving, and stable. Regardless of her own family structure, our daughters must understand that this is not the norm for everyone. Families eat at different times, enjoy different hobbies, and don’t always end every night in the same house. Some families are led by two moms, two dads, a guardian, or a single parent.

Regardless of the structure of your family unit, it’s important to help your daughter understand that no family is less inherently loving or healthy than another.

Expectations for Emotions and Conflict

In TV shows and movies, families and friends are not often shown having complex conflicts. Instead, the conflict focuses on a superficial detail or miscommunication, with the conflict ending neatly by the end of the episode. Instead of showing the characters working out their differences, what usually happens is that one apologizes to the other and they move on as if nothing happened.

Your daughter needs to understand that this is not a very realistic approach to conflict. To help her create a deeper understanding of healthy conflict and disagreement, be open about your feelings, especially when you don’t see eye to eye. Help her understand that conflict in families and with friends arises because of tough situations or differences in opinion, not because of a lack of love or respect.

TV is a wonderful resource, but it’s important to help our daughters see the difference between that world and real life. By talking with your daughter about what she’s watching and how it relates to her life, you can help mitigate some of the unrealistic expectations being shown to her on a daily basis.

Looking for more resources on communicating with your daughter? Check out our blog for more of Ramita’s thoughts on handling the turbulent tween and teen years.