Q: My daughter just posted a plea on her Facebook wall asking for help finding quality TV shows for elementary-age girls (my granddaughter is 7). I know she has been frustrated by the shows her daughter currently watches, as she believes the female characters act cruelly to each other, and she’s concerned about how this kind of messaging affects her daughter. I think she is looking for both show recommendations and if there is a way that she, and other parents like her, can influence what is presented on TV.
~ iGranny, USA
A: Dear iGranny,
Your daughter’s question is one with which many parents struggle when searching for developmentally optimal content that features positive, inspiring role models with whom their children can relate. The issue becomes even deeper when specifically looking for positive portrayals of women and girls in children’s media, as female characters have historically been underplayed or portrayed as weak, sexualized or mean-spiritedly competitive with other female characters. Research has repeatedly shown that these portrayals of female characters can negatively influence how young girls view their bodies and gender roles, yet even today, these negative stereotypes can be found in many movies and TV shows.
You and your daughter are not alone in wanting to guide your granddaughter toward media that will be enlightening, empowering and uplifting for her. Although it may seem daunting, you have come to the right place – there are many practical steps you can take when seeking and selecting media for your granddaughter:
Television—screen-time in general, really—is a problem for children. Kids who watch too much of it are more likely to be overweight. Violent programming and video games can make kids more aggressive, sexualized programming can make kids more likely to have sex early, fast-paced programming can mess up executive functioning in preschoolers.
Because of our worries about the effects of television, the standard advice of pediatricians has been: turn it off. We say that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t watch any television at all, and everybody else shouldn’t watch more than two hours.
The problem is, people aren’t listening to us. …