We have all seen it: children glued to a tablet, television, or their parent’s phone. Today, there are more children’s media options than ever before, and like adults, kids and their parents struggle to find the right content.
Our CEO, Monica Landers, is speaking on the SXSW 2020 panel, Screen Time for 1.9B Kids: What’s the Future? with Halle Stanford (President of Television, The Jim Henson Company) and David Kleeman (SVP Global Trends, Dubit). The panel of media leaders weighs in on tough questions: how do kids search for new favorites in a crowded market? When TV and movies look so alike, are we serving diverse kids’ needs?
In preparation, we looked at a sample set of 70 feature films and 61 television scripts between the years 2008 and 2019 to discover more about trends and stereotypes within kids’ content.
Spoiler: The initial data suggests that the gender stereotypes portrayed in adult programming are trickling down into children’s content.
In children’s films, father/son, mother/son, friendship and sister/sister relationships are the most prevalent. This is very similar in adult movies and TV programming with husband/wife, father/son, mother/son, and friendships being the most common. It is intriguing that t is a father/son or mother/son relationship for both types, but excluded daughters.
Children’s programming has a similar number of major characters. In both kids and adult programming, there are 2-3 major characters and 4-5 secondary characters. But overall kid’s content has more overall characters 48 in kids and 42 in adult programming. For example, “Monsters University” has 123 total characters, with only 2 major characters.
Gender across the last decade
In movie adult programming, females represented 34% of the cast, while males represented 64%. In TV adult programming it is more balanced, females represented 45% of the total cast, and males 54%.
Gender representation in kids programming is similar to adults, but in TV females are more prevalent: 60% representation for females and 40% for kids, but the movies follow the adult trends of male dominance with 66% representation, and only 34% for females.
Gender Representation in 2019 - Children’s Programming
Interestingly, in 2019 there was almost equal representation:
Gender Comparison - Dialogue Complexity
When broken down by production company, Disney’s female characters are about half a grade level behind their male counterparts in the complexity of their dialogue. For Dreamworks’ characters, a higher disparity between genders exists.
In children’s content, male characters are more adventurous, intelligent, authority-challenging, and imaginative, while female characters are more sympathetic, dutiful, altruistic, cheerful, and emotional. These traits are consistent with trends in adult content while being highly inconsistent with reality.
StoryFit’s state of the art research platform can rapidly measure, compare and contrast 100,000+ movie and TV script features. AI provides fascinating insights that can help us understand trends in attitude, characterization, and representation in children’s programming, and how these traits can make content more discoverable. So, how can we make content that resonates with today’s kids? And, how can we help kids discover it?