How Television Affects Children’s Views on Race

People grow up to be the way they are for a number of reasons. Some believe that it has to do with the parents; some believe that it’s the community the person grew up in, and some people believe that its society that shows them exactly how to act or not act in the world. In Mary Strom Larson’s “Race and Interracial Relationships in Children’s Commercials,” the author sets out to find out how the white children are portrayed in television ads and how the minorities are portrayed in ads that are aimed directly towards children.

This article was considered ground breaking at the time that it was published one of the issues during 2002, because, unbelievably, it was the first study done on anything remotely close to this. The author argues that television is one of the most influential things in a child’s development of the way they view the world since it takes no special skills, like reading or an incredible amount of media literacy, to take it all in and have some kind of enjoyment out of it. Since the TV is like that, it can make a huge impact on a young child that is exposed to it starting from birth for at least three hours a day on average. Therefore, these advertisements carry a great deal of weight in the social development of a young child. It is a lot like the conversation that we were having in class the other day about where it is you learn what is “cool” and what isn’t or what you like and don’t like. We get a majority of these things from our parents, family, friends, and media from the very first day that we leave the womb we are bombarded with images and examples of what the “proper” way of living is supposed to be carried out.

In this study, they broke everybody up into two different categories. There was the white and the AHANA (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American) children. They studied how often white and AHANA children were in commercials, what types of interactions the two groups had, what settings they were in and what the commercial was selling. They also broke it down further when they broke up the two groups and used these categories for commercials with just which children and just AHANA children. The numbers showed that of the 592 commercials 42% showed only white children, 57% showed both white and AHANA children and 1% showed just AHANA children in the ad. In all of these commercials, there were 892 children (95% real, 5% animated), in those ads, 76% of them were white, and 24% were AHANA children.

They found that the most commercials featuring a mixture of the two groups came in an outdoor setting while twice as many commercials featured the white children in an indoor/home setting. The studies also showed that in these commercials that they were more likely to feature a white child alone than a commercial with white and AHANA children mixed together, and in those commercials that feature white and AHANA children they will be involved in some kind of competition or athletic play (i.e. a game/sport of some sort). One of the more disturbing findings in the study was that the second most prevalent activity in commercials featuring white children only was stealing. For example, a couple of kids break into a cereal factory because they just “have to” get their hands on the sugary cereal that the company is peddling.

Some worry that commercials like this send the message to white children that if they want something bad enough they need to go and take it and they’ll have a great time doing it. Personally, I don’t think that kids will look at a commercial like this and think that it is ok to steal. It would take more than a 30-60 second ad on TV to change my mind, while I was a small child, that stealing was ok and I’d have a great time doing it. People need to place more blame on the actual person and not the small influence of a 30 second commercial. Another odd finding was that in ads that featured food or a restaurant or eating also featured a large percentage of AHANA children in it.

I was rather surprised when I came to find that AHANA children were represented more than the actual population percentages are. In these commercials, 24% of the children were AHANA kids and, according to the latest census, 18% of the general population is AHANA. That is something that shows the country is progressive and that the minorities are not only getting fair representation, but are actually getting a little more than what would be considered average by most. Also in these commercials, the AHANA kids aren’t just random people walking through the background of the shots. They play actual roles in the commercials that are very important to the advertisement.

To sum everything up, the study showed that minorities are portrayed favorably in children’s television commercials for the most part. We might eat and go outside and compete a little bit more but we don’t steal quite as much as the white kids do which is a 180 from the normal stereotype of minorities and the part they play in crime

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