A recent report from U.K.-based Channel 4 and the British Film Institute, How Children See Themselves on Television, explores how fairly and accurately children consider themselves to be portrayed in television shows.
The findings are based on research undertaken with 62 children from three regions of the U.K. Children were broken into groups age seven to eight, 11 to 12 and 14 to 15. The sample included children from various ethnic backgrounds as well as children with disabilities.
While the sample group was small, the study was able to obtain some general results. Children age seven to eight recognized children their age in programs, but frequently identified with characters that were not realistic representations of themselves. As well, they were much less concerned than older children about seeing more accurate representations of children their age. Children age 11 to 12 were more critical about how truthfully children their age were represented. Children age 14 to 15 generally agreed that depictions of children their age were unrealistic. Children with disabilities commented that characters with disabilities are typically shown in stereotypical roles and rarely appear in the general plots of popular programs. Children in general, but particularly children from ethnic backgrounds, expressed a desire to see more people from different nationalities and backgrounds in shows. Boys and girls characterized boys in programs as troublemakers, but more appealing characters, and girls as better behaved, but less interesting.
The study, presented at the Children on Screen conference held last October in London (see page 13 in KidScreen’s November issue), also discusses how children perceive themselves, what characters children aspire to be like, and children’s suggestions for television programs.