Everyone is exposed to stereotyping and bias, so much so, that it is often overlooked. Setting a good example in our home, with your family and friends, is the best way to help your kids grow up to be open-minded individuals. However, stereotyping in media, on videogames, TV, movies, DVDs and radio, should not be ignored. One of KIDS FIRST! Baseline Criteria is “NO bias in terms of race, gender, culture or religion.” Bias, or preconceived opinions about others can often be used to justify an unfair act against another, and seeks to limit, keep out or control people of differing races, genders, abilities, or other cultural or socioeconomic groups.
The effects of stereotyping on young children are astonishing…
- At age 2, children begin to classify differences in gender and race.
- At age 3, children are susceptible to believing stereotypes.
- At age 5, children understand cultural identity and can pick out stereotypes.
- At age 9, children believe stereotypes are correct unless they undergo a major life experience to the contrary.
How to recognize stereotypes:
- Look at the good guys and the bad guys. What race, gender or age are they?
- Look at the rich and the poor. How do they behave?
- Look at the story line. What is the standard for success?
- Look at problems. How and by who are they resolved?
- What is the role of women? Of minorities? Of the elderly?
- Describe the lifestyles of different groups. Who do you want to be like?
Ask yourself, and discuss with your kids if these stereotypes can be true of everyone in that race, gender, profession or economic status. Open and honest discussions with your children will help them to form their own opinions and to think for themselves.
Pictured top left: Bali, My New Friend Mateo (Planet Nemo), an independent short where a young child who befriends a blind boy only to find he is capable of doing more than he imagined. Pictured above: Tomboy (Coyle Productions), an independent short about a girl who has to deal with gender bias every day and her supportive mother who helps her to understand that it is ok to be different.