Television programming for children reveals systematic gender inequality

April 30, 2019

Programming children watch on American TV shows systematic gender inequality, according to new research co-authored by Dafna Lemish of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

In the newly released report, "The Landscape of Children's Television in the U.S. and Canada," Lemish, associate dean for programs and professor of journalism and media studies at SC&I, and co-author, Dr. Colleen Russo Johnson found startling new data revealing gender inequality in both the content children watch and in the industry creating the content.

Their research reveals that in television shows geared toward children aged two to 12, 64% of male characters are still dominant on the screen, particularly for non-human characters (72%) and female human characters were more racially diverse (46%) than male human characters (25%).

"The fact that female characters are more likely to be portrayed as persons of color suggests that some shows might be trying to 'check two boxes' with one casting," Lemish and Johnson wrote in the report.

Their findings are significant, Lemish said, because "television is a major socializing force in children's lives - they spend more time watching and interacting with screens than in any other activity and they learn from TV about societal values, who matters in society, what one can aspire to become etc. It also matters because U.S. continues to be the major producer and exporter of children's TV and thus it continues to disseminate such misguided values to the rest of the world."
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View the full story here.

View the full report here.

Rutgers University

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