Parents want more diversity in children’s film and television programming

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SAN FRANCISCO– A new report from Common Sense Media reveals that there is a noticeable gap between the diversity parents would like to see in the movies and TV shows kids watch and the content the industry offers.

A new report released today by Common Sense, “The Inclusion Imperative: Why Media Representation Matters for Kids’ Ethnic-Racial Development,” found that nearly 6 in 10 parents (57%) report that the media their child consumes sparked conversations about diversity. , and an even larger percentage of parents say it’s important for their children to be exposed to content that helps them learn more about their own culture, religion or way of life.

In addition, 78% of parents surveyed want their children to be exposed to media that teach them about cultures, religions and lifestyles different from their own, emphasizing the importance of stories and storylines that represent the diversity of a Multicultural America.

Report data, however, shows glaring diversity issues remain in the media, as people of color continue to be under-represented and poorly characterized in film and television roles across platforms, networks and services. media. For example, characters of color in shows most watched by children aged 2 to 13 are more likely to be portrayed as violent, and women of all ethnic and racial groups in adult shows are more likely. to appear in sexualized roles.

“The media has a profound influence on how we see, understand and treat people, especially those who are of our race or ethnicity and who are different from them. And it is no different for them. children, “said Onnie Rogers, PhD, a researcher at Northwestern University who co-authored the report. “Media representation is important for how children construct their perspective on their own ethnic and racial group, as well as that of others. This research allows us to better understand how media, race and representation are all linked with lasting effects. “

The report synthesizes existing research from over 150 journal articles, book chapters, reports and other academic sources to gain the best available understanding of how media might influence children’s ethnic and racial development and includes a survey nationally representative of over 1,100 parents of children aged 2 to 12.

“This report clearly shows that parents use and value quality media to help teach their children about understanding, acceptance and inclusion,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense. At the same time, the entertainment industry is not giving them enough choice. Parents want more from their media in terms of inclusiveness and representation, and it’s time for the content creators and the platforms that make that content. available to create TV shows, movies, games and apps that help all children feel included and celebrated. “

To address concerns about diversity, Common Sense Media is adding a new assessment for diverse portrayals that can help parents identify high quality media that include and nurture accurate portrayals of characters of color.

The main findings of the report include:

  • People of color are under-represented in film and television roles on media platforms, networks and services. Latinos are under-represented in all forms of media and in all lead roles (for example, although they make up 18% of the population, Latinos only make up 5% of speaking roles in movies). Native Americans are essentially invisible in the media landscape.
  • Media representation is important for how children construct their perspective on their own ethnic and racial group, as well as that of others. A review of the available research reinforced the idea that the media can have both positive and negative impacts on the ethnic and racial development of children. On the negative side, stereotypical representations of people of color can promote negative opinions and reactions towards people of color among the white public, and can also negatively affect children’s future career aspirations and undermine their self-esteem. At the same time, high-quality children’s media can promote positive ethnic and racial attitudes and interactions.
  • Even when people from Asian, Black, Latino, Middle Eastern or Native American groups are portrayed on media platforms, they are generally stereotyped. Characters of color in shows most viewed by children ages 2 to 13 are more likely to be portrayed as violent, and women of all ethnic and racial groups in adult shows are more likely to appear in sexualized roles.
  • Whites are over-represented in all media platforms and roles, including children’s television, top-grossing movies, and lead roles on network, cable, and streaming television. Recent studies have shown that whites occupy 76% of the lead roles in streaming and network TV shows, even though they only make up 60% of the population. The overrepresentation of whites can contribute to children developing an inaccurate understanding of the social world.
  • Exposure to negative media representations of their own ethnic and racial groups can undermine children’s self-esteem. Studies examining the influence of media use on black children and adolescents found that exposure to stereotypical media representations was linked to low self-esteem, satisfaction with one’s appearance, self-confidence. their own abilities, feelings about their ethnic and racial group, and their academic performance.
  • Watching favorable representations of their own ethnic and racial group can have a positive impact on children’s perceptions and opinions about their own ethnic and racial group.
  • For example, among black girls in elementary schools, exposure to beloved black TV characters is associated with more positive feelings about their own status, appearance, and happiness.
  • Representation is important to parents, and it’s not just about seeing their race / ethnicity in the media. About 6 in 10 parents (57%) say it is important for their children to see people of their race / ethnicity in the media they consume. This is the most important for black parents, 75% of them say it is important.
  • Parents find it very important that their children are exposed to media content that encourages acceptance from others who are not like them. Two in three parents think the media has a big impact on the way their children treat other people (67%) and on the information they get about other races / cultures (63%). For example, over 80% of parents say it’s important that the content their children are exposed to teach them to accept unlike people and their families.
  • There is much that can be done to improve the way diverse communities are represented in children’s media. Most parents think that white people are often portrayed in a positive light in the media to which their children are exposed; one in four think representations of black, hispanic, and LGBTQIA + people are more likely to be negative. Almost half of parents (47%) believe that the portrayal of blacks in children’s media is often stereotypical; 4 in 10 people think that the Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and LGBTQIA + portrayal is often also stereotypical.
  • Parents want to see more nuanced and sophisticated representations of BIPOC people and communities that provide positive role models and dispel damaging stereotypes about these groups. Uninvited, parents more often than not stated that they wanted the people and communities of BIPOC to be described with more respect, as good people, as educated and prosperous.
  • About two in three parents (65%) believe that the media has a big impact on their children’s career aspirations, which underscores the importance of providing positive role models for BIPOC children. In addition, 62% believe that the media have an impact on their child’s academic success. 63% of parents believe the media has an impact on what information children have about people of other races, ethnicities, religions and cultures.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.


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