Talking to kids about racial stereotypes

Racial stereotypes abound on television, and children’s programming is no exception. The turban-wearing bad guy, the brainy Asian, and the Black basketball whiz are just a few of the stereotypes reinforced in children’s cartoons, films and TV shows. Spotting these stereotypes is often difficult for children; to them, the tomahawk-wielding Indian or the Asian karate expert is a familiar, easily-understood and often funny character. So how do you help children understand these images for what they are – oversimplified, generalizations?

Talking to kids about gender stereotypes

Images of men and women in the media are often based on stereotypical roles of males and females in our society. Because stereotyping can affect how children feel about themselves and how they relate to others, it’s important that they learn to recognize and understand gender stereotypes in different media.

In its study of masculinity and sports media, the research group Children Now found that most commercials directed to male viewers tend to air during sports programming. Women rarely appear in these commercials, and when they do, they’re generally portrayed in stereotypical ways.

Women professionals and athletes continue to be under-represented in news coverage, and are often stereotypically portrayed when they are included.

No one would deny that the mass media is big business. According to the American Motion Picture Association, Hollywood films alone pulled in $10 billion in 2011, and that doesn’t include the renting and selling of DVDs. [1] However, media executives argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women.

In 1999, the research group Children Now asked boys between the ages of 10 and 17 about their perceptions of the male characters they saw on television, in music videos and in movies.

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