The media that children consume—including TV shows, news stories, movies, music and video games—deliver subtle and not-so-subtle messages that inform their attitudes about race, class and gender. Understanding the impact these messages are having on children is critical to developing supportive media policies and industry practices.
Children Now is a recognized leader in examining how race, gender and class are depicted in the media.
Today, 44 percent of American children ages 19 and under are children of color, yet few of the faces they see on television represent their race or cultural heritage. Similarly, though females outnumber males in the real world, prime-time television continues to present a world that is overwhelmingly male. Therefore, television not only fails to accurately reflect the world in which young people live, but it also sends a message that some groups of people are more valued by society and worthy of attention than others.
Children Now’s study of diversity on prime-time television, Fall Colors, presents an overview of the state of racial and gender diversity for the current prime-time season and a five-year longitudinal report on the progress, or lack thereof, that has been made towards achieving a truly diverse prime-time world. The study was completed annually from 2000-03.
All annual editions of Fall Colors are available in the Reports & Research section of this website.
Today’s video games offer lifelike characters and rich, graphic imagery that deliver very realistic experiences. With growing numbers of children playing these games, it is important to examine how the games’ messages about violence, gender and race are affecting our children.
Studies have found that playing video games can improve children’s visual attention skills, as well as their spatial, iconic and computer literacy skills. In addition, educational games can improve children’s academic performance. However, other studies show relationships between playing video games and unhealthy outcomes for children, such as isolation and loneliness, obesity, belief in gender stereotypes and increased aggressive behavior. In fact, video games’ unique interactive capabilities may make them even more likely to influence children’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors than more traditional forms of media.
Children Now’s study, Fair Play? Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games, identifies some unhealthy social messages that video games send children about violence, gender and race. The report also contains ideas for improving games for children.
As a primary source of information for the public, the news media can set the public agenda and shape public opinion. A growing body of research demonstrates that the news media routinely paint a distorted view of children. Local television news, in particular, plays a key role since the majority of adults their news through local broadcasts.
Children Now’s study, Local Television News Media’s Picture of Children, shows children are much more likely to be depicted on the local news in the context of crime and violence than in other situations.