A Different World: Children's Perceptions of Race and Class in the Media, 1999

May 01, 1999

Download file: different_world_1999.pdf

Young people overwhelmingly think that it is important for children to see people of their own race on television. Children of color are most likely to think so. White and African-American children say they see people of their race on television while Latino and Asian children are much less likely to see their race represented. Across all races, children are more likely to associate positive characteristics with White characters and negative characteristics with minority characters.

All children agree that the roles of boss, secretary, police officer and doctor in television programs are usually played by White people while the roles of criminal and maid/janitor on television are usually played by African-Americans.

Children of color primarily choose African-Americans as those they admire and White children primarily choose White television figures as their favorites.

Across all races, children agree that the news media tend to portray African-American and Latino people more negatively than White and Asian people, particularly when the news is about young people.

Race and social class are tightly connected in children’s minds - with White characters seen as having more money and minority characters seen as struggling financially. Similarly, White children are much more likely than children of other races to think families on television have the same amount of money as their families.

Children have great faith in media’s power and its potential. Over 80% of children of every race believe that media can teach children “that people of their race are important.”

Children would like to see television reflect the realities of their lives - that is, to feature more teenagers, to be ‘real,’ and, most importantly, to show more people of all races interacting with each other. As one teenage Latino girl said, “I think the perfect show for me would be a show that had every race. Not a show with only African-Americans or only Latino people… [a show] that will fit everybody.”

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