Diversity in Kid’s Content
Children are easily impressionable. Precisely the reason why media content for children needs to be very well thought out and created. Messages put out by the media can have a tremendous influence on children’s beliefs and behaviour, as young minds often imbibe media messages at face value.
However, media content, especially entertainment content, rarely reflects social realities. Negative portrayals and underrepresentation of communities, races, genders and certain sections of the society is a longstanding issue in the media. According to a 2020 report by Psychology Today, 50% of female characters in kids programming are overly sexualised compared to their male counterparts. Similarly, female characters were shown to solve problems more likely by using charm or magic, as opposed to male characters who did the same using their brains and physicality. Characters with disability are also rarely represented in kid’s content.
A Pressing Concern
This lopsided representation in kid’s content can have a limiting effect on our young audience’s world view and perspective. It can also have damaging psychological outcomes for the young viewers. When kids are able to identify with popular characters, they develop higher self-esteem across several dimensions. On the other hand, under-representation of their identities in the programmes they watch could make children feel invisible, incapable or unimportant. Hence, diverse, realistic and inclusive representation is of great importance in kid’s content.
The Way Ahead
Fixing this problem needs rethinking of the very tenets of entertainment and characterisation. A huge responsibility falls on creators of kid’s content who need to break stereotypes and think out-of-the-box to bring in more diversity and inclusivity into their programming.
There are, indeed, visible and welcome changes in the approach to kid’s entertainment in the new era. In general, there has been greater focus on better representation of diverse identities.
As a leading organization in kid’s entertainment, Toonz has always focused on ensuring diversity in its programming. Toonz’s upcoming slate of kid’s content, co-produced with some of the world’s top creators, stands out in terms of portraying characters from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities in lead roles – whether it is a black, female superhero; a young girl passionate about mechanics and tools; or friends from rivalling communities coming together with a message of universal love and peace. The progressive storylines of Toonz’s upcoming content will definitely capture the imagination of our young audience.
Kid’s entertainment industry needs to evolve continuously to address emerging issues. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure greater diversity in all kid’s content, so that children from all backgrounds feel included and represented. This would empower them to have greater self-confidence and also motivate them to embrace their own identity while appreciating others. This, in turn, would help us groom sensitive, tolerant and pluralistic individuals for the new world.