Exposure to electronic media makes girls feel worse about themselves. Yes. We already knew this, growing up female and all, but there's now a new study that shows it's true. While TV shows and other electronic media makes white boys feel BETTER about themselves, it harms the self-esteem of girls. So what do we do about it?
Here's my top ten list of actions to counteract the negative effects of media:
- Watch TV with your kids and play the games they play so you can be in on what they are seeing and experiencing. You can only help them with a problem that you are aware of.
- Call it what it is: be vocal about what you see and how it demeans or limits girls.
- Repeat #1 over and over again. Be like a broken record if you need to - girls AND boys will get used to seeing what the media portrays and they will become numb to it unless we point it out regularly and repeatedly. so point it out - regularly and repeatedly.
- Offer a different ending. When a program you are watching shows girls in limiting roles, offer an alternative outcome. As you view a TV show featuring a girls, say, Anna, who goes to school then comes home to cook dinner for her siblings. Pose this question, "What would those kids do if Anna stayed after school for leadership?" Or if Anna seems to care more about her looks than her schoolwork or her job, point out how limiting and unrealistic that is.
- Draw attention to the narrow range of body shapes and sizes that are shown in programming.
- When out in public, point out the REAL people - note how they look. In real life people come in ALL shapes and sizes!
- Be active participants in activities rather than passive recipients of electronic media. Lead by example and then go ahead and enroll your kids in sports and other activities that will give them REAL experiences rather than virtual ones.
- Expose your kids to a wide variety of people and situations. On weekends and on holidays go out of your neighborhood and visit other parts of town. Visit city centers where a wide variety of people pass by. Note the diversity.
- Go out of your way to introduce your daughter to as many female business women as possible - with as wide of backgrounds as you can find. This is a challenge but we MUST show the girls of the world that there are plenty of girl engineers, game developers, architects, accountants, CPA s, doctors, business owners, bankers, etc.
- As your daughter goes through the preteen and teen years make sure she knows that women make just $.77 for each $1 men make. Why tell her this? Because she will have to work hard to AVOID this situation herself. The truth? Some girls and women make equivalent salaries. Most don't. If she doesn't know it's a phenomenon she won't be able to advocate for herself. Teach her. Then help her rise above it.
This issue has been around for a long time. Some people (some men I know, in particular) think that times have changed and that the biases of the past have been overcome. This study illustrates that the media biases are still there and they impact OUR kids: girls and boys - in harmful ways. Don't sit back and let it happen. Be involved, speak up, and be active. It matters.