So, my three year old son picked up a Barbie today in the charity shop. He announced that she was a princess and that she must wear a dress and ‘needed rescuing’.
Where does he even get these ideas from!?
I was tired but I mustered up a little energy to question his statement.
“Are you sure she’s a princess? Maybe she’s a bus driver or a doctor.” I replied.
He nodded but didn’t answer and we moved on…
It got me thinking though…
We don’t massively restrict what our boys watch on TV or the internet. They’re 17 months and 3 years old so it’s not a major issue at the moment.
I’ve written before about how we talk to our boys about stereotypes. The shows they watch can have a massive influence over their thoughts. TV and TV ads ingrain these ideas from such a young age.
I’m determined that my boys will grow up to respect people and to understand that neither gender, race nor appearance gives any baring on how much someone is capable of achieving.
I want them to admire and look up to female characters as they do make ones. Not in some overly forced way…but just because girls are cool too.
I’m also aware that the male characters my boys are supposed to be watching are often aggressive, strong, fighters. They’re always the risk takers and the ones that can be depended upon to save everyone and fix all the problems! That’s a lot of pressure to put on men…yet alone young boys.
The Global Adolescent Study looked at gender portrayals and how this influences behaviours.
“We found children at a very early age – from the most conservative to the most liberal societies – quickly internalise this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” said Robert Blum, director of the Global Early Adolescent Study, based at Johns Hopkins University. “And this message is being constantly reinforced at almost every turn, by siblings, classmates, teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, clergy and coaches.”
So what!? Does it really matter?!
Because of these gender norms, “boys engage in and are the victims of physical violence to a much greater extent than girls; they die more frequently from unintentional injuries, are more prone to substance abuse and suicide; and as adults their life expectancy is shorter than that of women. Such differences are socially not biologically determined.” The Guardian.
So, with all this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of TV shows and movies that feature positive role models. Shows that we encourage our young kids to watch to counteract the negative messages they are bombarded with so often.
1. Footy Pups. Rachel Yankey…she’s an international football star who teaches children football skills. It’s brilliant to see a skilled female football player inspiring the next generation. My toddler always pretends he’s Rachel Yankee when he plays football!
2. WordGirl Great for kids who love everything superhero. WordGirl is armed with superhuman strength aswell as awesome vocabulary. With villains like “Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy”, parents can laugh along to this one too.
3. Moana. By the time I was watching Disney in the late 80’s they had produced some kick-ass heroines. Their movies no longer featured feeble princesses who’s sole purpose was awaiting ‘loves first kiss’. Moana is my (uhm…I mean my boys) recent favourite. She’s brave, kind, funny and determined. She isn’t afraid to be different and goes after what she believes. She’s a true leader. And guess what…there’s no love interest!
4. Superhero Adventures. We’ve let our superhero obsessed son watch some of the older versions of Spider-man as they aren’t violent. Let’s face it though, old-school superhero plots are pretty sexist!
However, thanks to Disney, there’s a new series of short cartoons for young kids. Each episode, features Spider-man and a superhero friend and focuses on a different positive message like helping others.
You can watch them all for free on YouTube!
5. Do you know? We’ve learnt a lot from watching Maddie explain how things work! Our latest obsession is the toilet flush…everyone who comes to the house has to hear all about the pipes and ‘sisternt’ (cistern). She’s a great role model and it’s brilliant to see a woman teaching kids about science.
6. Bitz and Bobs. This animated series follows Bitz and her younger brother Bob on their many adventures. The show aims to get kids involved in crafting, engineering, experiments and exploration with key STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) principles throughout. Also, the theme tune is amazing…I could sing it all day!
7. Stella and Sam. Based on the beautifully illustrated children’s books by Marie-Louise Gay. Stella is admired by her little brother Sam. They love playing outdoors and using their imaginations to transform otherwise ordinary objects.
8. Floogals. This was filmed in a real house with CGI aliens! Fleeker, Flo and Boomer are on a mission to discover what it means to be ‘hooman’ by observing the humans in their everyday life. The Floogals observe and study the objects they find and send footage back to their home planet to explain their findings.
10. Sarah and Duck. Sarah is a polite little girl who goes on adventures with her duck. This show is so calming and won’t have your kid’s bouncing of the walls like “Justin’s House” or “Blippi” (we love Blippi in small doses!)
Personally, I think screen time can be great for kids. Select shows carefully and they can be really educational.
I can spend ages talking something through with my son that just doesn’t seem to sink in. He’ll watch a cartoon on the same topic and within minutes he’s got it and is role-playing the scenario.
Kids copy what they see so surround them with as many positive role models as possible!
Do you have any more suggestions for fun and educational TV shows and movies?