Yes, my kids watch tv. Yes, I said they’ll never do it. Yes, I’m a cliché.
Today’s streaming apps like Netflix give us lots of possibilities. Being able to choose the show you want to see at the moment you want to see it is just perfect, not just for us and our crave to finish the last season of Orange is the new Black, but for us as parents. We now have more control over what we allow or not our kids to watch.
My daughters are still young so its easy for me to choose for them, they are not yet influenced by merchandising or “school trends”. I try to filter the content as much as possible. This is my criteria for my kids tv time:
- No gender stereotypes
- Educational and/or positive messages.
I know it sounds like there will only be a few options, but no. Fortunately things have changed a lot since Katha Pollitt wrote about The Smurfette principle. Gender stereotyping is not something to be taken lightly. Children are exposed to lots of information daily: at home, at school, on the tv, etc. Nowadays there are more and more studies that show the impact of gender stereotyping in the media on children’s views and their ulterior behaviour. Doing my research for this post, I read lots of amazing articles, but I believe this paragraph sums up the idea behind the matter. This is a US study, but I’m pretty certain it applies for most countries.
According to the True Child Institute, as of a few years ago, 15% of the characters on Saturday morning cartoon shows were female. Of those, the institute pointed out, almost all were stereotypes, often portrayed as romantic, frail and concerned about their appearance. A similar study in Media Psychology revealed that cartoon-dominated children’s TV programming portrayed male characters who were “more likely than female characters to answer questions, boss or order others, show ingenuity, achieve a goal”—and get this!—”eat.” Read more…
The Maisy test for sexism in kid’s shows.
The goal of this post is not to discuss sexism in tv shows, but to give you some ideas and shows to think about. If you are not sure if what your kids are watching is sexist or not, you can try this test I found online. Its called the Maisy test, its not scientific but answering 4 questions you’ll get a better insight on what your kids are watching.
I find that the last topic “social justice and equality” is the one that current tv shows are lacking the most. I don’t see lots of diversity but I believe we are getting there. So here is my list for allowed tv shows at home and a brief description.
1. Beat bugs
This show is about 5 bug friends and their adventures in a backyard. Its a combination of adorable designs and Beatle’s songs performed by contemporary artists.
Within the 5 main characters, there are both male and female leaders. All characters have different personalities that are accepted and cherished by the group. The roles in the characters are very balanced.
In general this show doesn’t fall into the educational criteria, but it is a very safe tv show with strong positive messages about love, friendship and family. And of course, the music.
2. Bubble Guppies
Just by looking at the picture you get a good idea of the diverse ethnic backgrounds represented. My daughters love this show. It’s educational, promotes positive messages of friendship and love. Its an active show that encourages children participation in problem solving together with catchy songs.
3. Earth to luna
Luna is a very curious 6 year old girl constantly asking “what’s happening here?”. Luna’s curiosity is contagious, kids are invited to ask questions themselves about everyday situations and things. She goes on her quests with her brother Jupiter and her pet ferret Clyde. Sweet designs paired up with great educational content and music. Just Perfect!
4. Hey Duggee
We recently discovered this show although its been going on since 2014.
The show is simple, the characters are cute, diverse, with different qualities. the show is centred in the relationship between a teacher and his students, focused on family and friendship values.Very educational and full of positive messages.
5. Hogie, the globe hopper
Hogie is a young frog travelling around the world with some friends. They visit remote destinations, learn about other cultures and help when there is need. It’s interesting as a general knowledge show because it focuses on landmarks and buildings, typical foods, dances and ways. It might come as slow for the older kids but they can also get caught into the journey.
6. Justin time
Justin and his friend Olive travel through time in their adventures helping out animals. This show is full of educational value in many aspects: historical, geographical and scientific, everything presented in a very nice kid friendly format.
7. Puffin rock
This Irish show is a must see. Educational and full of positive messages, the adventures of Oonagh and Baba teach kids about family values, friendship and nature.
8. Story bots
Story bots can be found in 2 different shows. they both feature a team of creatures that live on the other side of the screen. In Ask the story bots, the team goes into the human world to help children solve their questions. Extremely educational and entertaining.
The other show calles Story Bots Super Songs is also great for the little ones, its an animated cartoon like show that teaches about many different topics in catchy song formats. BE WARNED: you might be singing “velociraptor velocirraping” in your head for a very long time… I told you: they are catchy! check it out…
9. The super monsters
This show is about a nice group of monsters that attend to preschool to learn how to be the best monster/persons they can be. What I love about this show is that every kid/monster is different and they are all appreciated by what makes them unique. Full of positive messages, songs, funny stories… I highly recommend it.
10. Treehouse detectives
The starts of this show are brother and sister with very curious minds. Along the shows they solve mysteries usually related to natural processes. It invites kids to use their own imaginations and problem solving skills.
I do believe that screen time needs to be controlled and minimised as much as possible. At home, rules are simple: NO tv before 5pm. that means about an hour of tv a day. I know that rules are meant to be broken, and they are. My general inner rule is: leave tv as the last possible resource. Because I need it to work when I use it. I need tv to keep them entertained when I have some deadline to achieve or a dinner to finish preparing. I want the tv to give me those precious minutes without interruption that will foster my mental health.
I’m not going to lie, my youngest daughter is crazy about Paw Patrol. I can’t blame her, she loves dogs so much that this is the ideal tv show for her. But I hate it, really. A show with all male pups, only one pink female pup, a male young leader and the city mayor that is a woman but not a very smart one. What can I do? I try to engage in good conversation. I ask questions, I challenge her to think about all the things I believe to be wrong about the show, without actually telling her that I think the show sucks, I want her to eventually reach to that conclusion. Wish me luck, it is not going good so far, but we’ll get there.