Teen Portrayals on Television Fail to Reflect Reality


Janelle White

Older actors often play teenagers in high school. It gives teens an unrealistic view of what high schoolers should look like. It can give teenagers pressure to get the ideal body type despite them still going through puberty.

TV shows have been all the rave since quarantine happened. Students watch all kinds of genres of shows like drama, comedy, sci-fi, and much more! Some teenagers also watch shows about high school but they often lack accurate portrayals of how real teens are.

Teens have noticed that on the screen, high school life is overdramatized to make the show more interesting and is rarely realistic. The characters’ storylines are mostly about their sexuality and love lives. When asked about how this can impact teens, sophomore Liliana Olvera remarks, “This can affect some teens if that’s what they are used to seeing on TV however, some teenagers can dissociate what they see on TV from reality and it won’t affect them as much.” TV teens also give us an unrealistic view on what high school should look like. Students will expect to have the best moments of their lives in high school and get their hopes up only to be left dismayed.  

“The shows I watch are nothing like what happens in my life. Like on Gossip Girl, there was a mystery person online spilling everyone’s secrets online and the show promoted underage drinking to teenagers which was the exact opposite of what happens in real life,” sophomore Liliana Olvera remarked. According to the CDC, “Rates of current and binge drinking among high school students have generally been declining in recent decades.”

Even though shows do not show the truth of what is going on in real life, it can still have real world consequences. According to the Multisystemic Therapy website, www.mstservices.com, “70 percent of these [primetime] shows depict alcohol use. In film, alcohol use is shown in movies from PG to R-rated, and most often these scenes are depicted as normative behavior, which has been shown to have a negative effect on teens. A study conducted in California by Columbia University found correlations between exposure to drinking scenes and teen alcohol consumption.”

In Riverdale and Veronica Mars, for example, the main characters are running a full-on investigation and solving cases the police cannot. The violence shown in shows like crime ones can cause teenagers to have greater violence in themselves.

The characters in these two shows are still in school and involved in extracurriculars while having the time to solve a murder case. How do they have the time for homework, studying for tests, or applying for college? “When I was watching Riverdale, a student died and two high school students were trying to solve the case without the help of the police and it was interesting but weird since this isn’t something a high school student would do,” sophomore Elena Jimenez commented.

In some television shows, people hire actors that are way older than the characters they are supposed to play. “On Riverdale, the actors are in their early 20s to mid-20s and it’s honestly really weird and unrealistic seeing them play teenagers,” sophomore Elena Jimenez mentioned. Shows with older actors do not represent what a normal teen would look like. Since they are adults already, it gives teenagers an unrealistic view of what they would look like. Older actors already went through their teenage years and have matured and this can have an impact on a person’s development. Some teens can look up to those actors and give them the pressure of having the ideal body type or shape or comparing themselves to the characters which can lower one’s self esteem.  

High school can be very different from the stuff we see on TV. It’s really important to stay in the reality of our own lives and not be caught up on the lives we see on screen, as well as realize its impact on us.