How Stereotyping Damages Our Youth

Photo Cred. & HBO

I remember a couple of years ago when my niece and nephews were around 8- 9 years old and just started to watch Disney channel. There used to be these shows with these smart guys and girls in their age, I think one of them was called The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

Once my sister expressed her concern, that she was not fond of her kids watching these shows. I thought it was because of some puberty thing or things going to fast for the kids and asked her what was wrong with it?

Read more about how encourgement and support can help change childrens outlook.

Being a teacher working with kids, she had noticed that there were a lot of stereotyping in these kids show.

There where the “popular white kid” and the “cool African-American kids”, the “smart Asian kids”. The only times there was someone who looked like my nieces and nephew, was in the shape of the “stinking falafel guy”.

I remember thinking how annoying stereotyping was. But since I didn’t have any kids back then, I didn’t bother too much about it.

I have a 3-year-old boy who has started to get more interested in watching things online, especially on YouTube. There is so much crap on YouTube disguised as children’s shows, that you have to keep a good eye on what your kid is watching.

Part of this crap is stereotyping.
We always make sure that he doesn’t see anything like that.
A few days ago my husband sent me an article called “Why Do Cartoon Villains Speak In Foreign Accents?
Reading this article was scary, just knowing how early we are “brainwashed”, to think in a certain way.
How we learn to associate different accent with different groups of people and develop them vs. us mentality so early on .

A quote from the article:
“Research has shown that kids use TV as a key source of information about other ethnic groups, as well as about their own ethnic and racial identities.

Linguists have also found that not only do people make judgments about their peers’ intelligence and education levels based on language characteristics (with those who speak standard dialects usually being viewed as smarter and better-looking) but also that those judgments often shape how a person or group of people is treated.

These patterns imply that when children see a correlation between evil and foreignness, or between evil and low socioeconomic status. There’s a good chance they are internalizing negative perceptions of themselves or other groups.

(Like in the Beauty and the Beast, where the Pendulum Clock who is the Head Chief Steward of the house have British accent and Candelabra who is the head waiter has an Italien accent.)

According to Rosina Lippi-Green, a linguist who has written on the uses of language in Disney movies. Its because children learn through repetition. “You show them a pattern, you keep showing them that pattern … of course they’re going to assimilate that,” she continued”.

Talking to the creator of the cartoons doesn’t solve the issue, they only look at what has been commercially successful shows and roll with that, because for them money counts.

To get an idea, see what Apu from the Simpsons has done for the Indien community in the US, here.

My son is being raised in an international multicultural environment, coming from a mixed family. His Dad being Swedish and Mom being Pakistani, with friends from all over the world.
Kids are so innocent at this age they don’t see difference or color in people. Our aim is that he stays this way.

I remember growing up in Denmark. There were only white characters on TV and there was this stereotypical family type. We were not like that and there was always this awareness of being different. I know many who struggled with being one person at home and one person when out.
People that had a hard tome trying to merge those two worlds.

Read about how social media affect our kids.

It is so important that every race is present in both a good and in a bad way. So that kids can see the differences and learn to accept everyone. If these companies that produce these shows truly want to be global, the need to represent people globally.

Until then we can follow this advice from Julie Dobrow, a senior lecturer at Tufts who specializes in issues of children and media:
“To be able to make your children into media-literate viewers. If a parent or sibling or caregiver is there with a child watching television or a film, this. Can make anything into an educational experience.”


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