Who’s modeling STEM for kids? A character analysis of children’s STEM-focused television in the U.S.

Fashina Aladé*, Alexis Re Lauricella, Yannik Kumar, Ellen Wartella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Character portrayals are important to consider when investigating the effects of educational television on young viewers. When it comes to academic interests and career aspirations, children take cues from the media representations around them. This study is a content analysis of STEM-focused children’s television shows, with attention to gender and race representation amongst the characters in those programs. Across 90 episodes of programs that claim to teach STEM to young children, 1,086 unique speaking characters were coded on demographics, physical attributes, centrality to the plot, and modeling of STEM behaviors and occupations. Following traditional industry trends, female and minority characters were underrepresented in these programs compared to population statistics. However, when it came to the centrality of their role and on-screen STEM engagement, characters were portrayed relatively equally regardless of their race or gender. This was true, especially, for characters depicted as children, but less so for adult characters, who followed more traditionally stereotypical trends. Findings align closely with prior character-focused content analyses, but also present some areas in which the industry may be moving towards more egalitarian practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Children and Media
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • age
  • character analysis
  • Children’s television
  • content analysis
  • diversity
  • gender
  • race
  • stem education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication

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