A New Rating System Tells Parents If TV Shows Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes

The message of gender in TV shows profoundly affects how kids view themselves later in life

While we’ve long had rating systems in films to keep from exposing children to violence, sex, and profanity, there’s been little effort made to monitor the messages behind the show or movie that kids are watching. Common Sense Media is hoping to change that with a new rating system that offers parents information on other matters of age-appropriateness and how gender is portrayed on-screen.

The rollout of the new system came after the nonprofit examined the influence of gender representation in entertainment. The depictions have a profound influence on how a child may value themselves as adults in the working world and even romantically. Realizing that this correlation between the depictions and a child’s self-worth has been long ignored, Common Sense Media sought to give parents a tool to evaluate media in a different way.

Their reviews can be found here and also integrated on participating service providers. The group rates shows on the following criteria:

  • Educational value
  • Positive message
  • Positive role models
  • Violence and scariness
  • Sexy stuff
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking, drugs, and smoking

From their website:

“Media that perpetuates rigid gender roles and stereotypes can affect children's sense of self, relationships, and career aspirations. Our latest research report explores the effects of gender-biased media on children's development so we can promote more positive, accurate gender representations that give kids the freedom they need to be themselves.”

Still in its early days, the rating system is located only on the Common Sense site and requires a login for parents, and it doesn’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach to ratings. Using academic study, the key findings Common Sense Media share speak as much to why as they do to what.

A breakdown of the extensive research they’ve done can be found here for reference:

Common Sense Media

Unlike other more insistent groups, like the Parents’ Television Council, Common Sense isn’t trying to influence, but rather inform. Speaking to The New York Times, Betsy Bozdech, the group’s executive editor said, “Just because a movie doesn’t get the seal doesn’t mean it’s not funny or entertaining or not worth your family’s time. We’re just looking to call out the ones going above and beyond.”

Here’s what a sample review of a show looks like. As you can see, they don’t pull any punches in their assessment, calling the show “bland” in the first word of their summary.

Common Sense Media

With their work, the group is hoping to let the world know that the golden age of television we’ve been living in is far from perfect in some ways. Hopefully, their work will help parents come to a realization that the TV networks have yet to reach.

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