Kids seeing more of themselves in movies, tv

Representation in kids’ media on the rise


Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

Kids form ages 8-12 spend an average of 4-6 hours of watching a screen

Indyrah W., Staff Writer

child in front of TV
Kids form ages 8-12 spend an average of 4-6 hours of watching a screen. (Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels )

“Wow, that’s fascinating”.

Parents have been concerned about just how much children spend in front of a screen. In the United States kids from ages 8-12 usually spend more than 4-6 hours watching a screen. The average teen spends up to 9 hours watching a screen, which can damage a child’s mind.  

Google’s definition of representation is “the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone or the state of being so represented”. 

With the rise of social media, people have become a lot more open to different topics, such as in Disney’s Andi Mack season 1 episode 5 when they covered the topic of Buffy’s hair with the fictional principal Dr. Metcalf stated that she would have to change her hair because it’s “too big”. 

According to a 2011 study published in Communication Research, not only does diversity on-screen directly affect children’s self-esteem but it also negatively “affects them when the young people who look like them are on-screen doing something wrong”.

“I don’t feel good when I see people like me acting silly,” seventh grader Orleacia King said. “I feel people start to doubt more.” 

Mavin Tyler, also in seventh grade, feels that kids can be affected mentally when they’re not being represented and could feel quite lonely.

Diversity is the next step to truly including and acceptance of people of different beliefs, colors and communities that some aren’t really familiar with.  It can build a better perspective. There is an argument between Gen Z and Millennials as to who has the most diverse shows. Although shows like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place may come to mind, some forget about the time Disney was actually really diverse (for its time) with shows like That’s So Raven, Let it shine, and Ant Farm. That all had minority lead characters.

Red Oak Middle School college and career readiness teacher Yanna Landry thinks that showrunners didn’t show much representation because “they” didn’t think it was an issue. 

It has been shown that children pay close attention to the types of characters they see in their favorite books and TV shows. For this reason, it’s especially important that children see themselves portrayed in the media they consume.

An article on explained that there are two types of representation in media: windows and mirrors. When the media provides a “window”, it exposes kids to places, people, and things that aren’t an everyday part of their lives.

According to PBS, when children see a protagonist who looks, acts and lives like them, they feel empowered and inspired.

These “mirrors” help children feel included and belonged.

Of 56 current series across kids channels such as Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Netflix etc, around 54 percent(30 of them) – have lead characters of underrepresented groups. Live action and animated shows – feature people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community as main characters.

A Huffington Post article said kids’ shows have an enormous responsibility to be inclusive, break stereotypes, and set good examples for children. They believe kids shows from the 1990s were an excellent example of this. 

If you take one look at the opening credits in “Magic School Bus,” it is obvious how diverse the group is. Ms. Frizzle’s class shows kids from different backgrounds and has a balance of girls and boys breaking a few gender stereotypes. 

The show also showed the kids’ hobbies, fears and strengths. It broke a few more  stereotypes too. Dorthy Ann was an astronomy lover, Arnold wasn’t brave and Wanda was quite a tomboy and liked to play sports. Which is probably why it was such a hit. Kids felt they could relate to characters on the show.

Some say “Sesame Street” a kids show that first aired in 1969 was before its time with diversity. It portrayed different races and included African Americans as hosts.

Besides, being racially diverse it was a series that made different backgrounds seem normal such as Oscar the grouch, who lives in poverty, and Julia, who is autistic. 

Craig Bartlett, the creator of “Hey, Arnold,” wanted the show to reflect reality and that is why the show takes place in a multiracial neighborhood. 

A lot of popular shows have been getting rebooted and that has stirred some controversy.

The “Magic School Bus” reboot “ The Magic School Bus Rides Again” stirred some controversy on Twitter when people realized a completely unnecessary choice the creators made to remove some of our beloved characters’ diversity.

According to a simple google search,” race” is in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, physical features are  clues to a person’s culture and religion, etc.

Kids also think a show like Paw Patrol is a “boys show.”  Maybe they think that because there is only one female main character in the whole show and kids are not that likely to watch shows they don’t see themselves in. Or because of the colors the show uses(red, yellow, blue) that are usually deemed as “boys colors.” 

Kids like to see themselves in the media they watch because media is a pretty big part of this generation and is heavily influenced by it. 

“If you don’t see people like you who achieve things, you feel you can’t do it,”  Landry said.

This is why the media has such a big influence on people’s minds and self-esteem. Humans are visual people and have to see it to believe it. And if people see themselves – and people who look like them – shown in a positive light in the stories they watch on streaming networks and in the movies, they just might believe they’re important, too.