Canadians ought to invest more in “domestically relevant’’ children’s television content, and TV programming in both Canada and the United States should show more characters “living in lower socioeconomic conditions’’. These recommendations are among “actionable insights’’ included in a report just released by The Center for Scholars & Storytellers.
The Center, which has offices at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and at Ryerson University in Toronto, says it’s dedicated to offering “research-based actionable insights to support authentic and inclusive content for audiences, ages two to 20’’.
According to the report, the majority of TV programs in Canada and the US targets children ages 5 and under (60% in the United States, 55% in Canada). One of the most disadvantaged groups is the “tween’’ TV audience, with just 11% of American shows and only 1% of Canadian shows geared towards them.
“Consequently, this ‘tweenage’ 10-12 audience is pushed directly into watching older, sometimes age-inappropriate teen and adult programming. Content creators should, therefore, consider how to address the unique needs of this tween audience when developing programs,’’ the report suggested.
Also examined in the report are issues such as the percentage of fictional children’s TV programs produced in North America; The percentage of shows created, written and directed by men versus women; main characters that are human versus those that are animals; “thinness and sexualization’’ of characters; and signs of “obvious physical disabilities’’ being portrayed by TV actors.
“It is important for all children to see themselves reflected on screen, especially those with disabilities who don’t always see people who look like them on a daily basis,’’ the report said.
“When casting actors and when creating animated human characters,’’ the report added, “producers should make an effort to portray all body types. Children are highly influenced by what they see on-screen, and the accumulated body of research suggests that the cultural glorification of female thinness and sexualization is correlated with the prevalence of eating disorders and low self-esteem. Showing realistic body types can help boost self-confidence in viewers and promote acceptance and tolerance toward self and others.’’
The report stated that overall, the majority of human characters on children’s TV is Caucasian (65% in the US, 74% in Canada). It recommends that, “content creators today should be creating and casting more diverse characters than ever to keep up with the audience of tomorrow, who are growing up in an increasingly diverse world’’.