It's no secret that gender stereotypes and sexism are present in plenty of TV shows and movies, including those aimed at kids and teens. And while we'd like to think children don't pick up on those details, a lot of times, they do — and it can have lasting effects on their world views.
A new report from Common Sense Media titled "Watching Gender: How Stereotypes in Movies and on TV Impact Kids' Development" explores this effect. The group surveyed roughly 1,000 parents across the United States about how media affected their children, in addition to combing through 150 articles in academic journals. The findings were striking: young girls who were shown clips that included "female stereotypes" were less likely to express interest in STEM careers than girls shown "footage featuring female scientists."
Another disturbing finding from the study is that "teens who are heavier media users are more likely to believe that women are partially responsible for their own sexual assaults."
According to the watchdog, "youth media promote sexist beliefs, including the tolerance of sexual harassment, acceptance of dating violence, and the endorsement of rape myths, a set of beliefs suggesting that women's behavior and choices are to blame for rape." (Consider, for example, the recent phenomenon of Netflix's teen drama 13 Reasons Why. The show presents rapist Bryce in a negative light — but in the book that inspired the series, good-guy Clay thinks to himself, "You knew what you were getting into," when listening to Hannah's account of her rape, the New Yorker noted.)
"This research is important to consider in adolescence because sexist attitudes are a risk factor for sexist behavior and violence against women in adult life," the report explains, citing two studies from 2004 and 2005 on the topic.
So the next time someone says something is "just a kids' show" or that the target audience would "never pick up on" stereotypes, direct them to this report.
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