Does your son or daughter hold some strong stereotypes about the opposite sex? Do you wonder where those thoughts have come from? For some parents, looking in the mirror can be hard, but they should look no further. For the vast majority of others, our televisions are doing us in.
As parents, we try very hard to build our children up and be the fosterers of success. We try to set good examples- at least all of the parents that I know try- but sometimes, even when we think our children are not looking, we fall short. Parents often have the greatest influence over their children. This influence comes in both what we do and what we do not do and say. Our children are always watching us. They are also watching someone else.
Even with the great deal of influence that we have over our children, we are either trumped or furthered by the media. Lytton & Romney (1991) purports a parent’s role as introducing, teaching and reinforcing gender attitudes and roles within their children. This teaching is done through the modeling of mom and dad’s social behaviors, the encouragement or lack thereof for roles and actions in their children and even through communication of beliefs and problems with the outside world (Lytton & Romney, 1991). As Matsumoto & Juang (2008) argues, men and women must be taught how to coexist in this world if the human race is to survive. Matsumoto & Juang (2008) acknowledges that parents are a pivotal in setting the foundation for children’s gender roles. However, parents do not operate- just as their children do not operate- within a bubble. Thus, a parent only plays a part of the role in the socialization of their children’s gender.
Martin & Ruble (2004) discuss the idea that children are not void of action in the development of their gender roles and the socialization of their gender. Rather, children are active participants in the socialization of gender; and their parents’ influence is not a determinant to the socialization outcome (Martin & Ruble, 2004). So where, if not from parents, are children influenced during these socialization processes? The media is an active socialization agent in the formation of gender roles for children. After all, we have become a highly digitized and entertained society. Dill & Thill (2007) notes that current generation, mainly children, are heavily influenced by video games and the television. They further point out the appearance of masculine and powerful traits in males within media, and soft, sexy traits within females enforces those ideas on children (Dill & Thill, 2007). Generally speaking, the media serves the purpose of expressly continuing the status quo of socialized gender roles (Dill & Thill, 2007). Hardin & Greer (2009) claims the media plays the role of “ubiquitous and invisible gender role regulators” (p. 208).
Dill, K.E., & Thill, K.P. (2007). Video game characters and the socialization of gender roles: Young people’s perceptions mirror sexist media depictions. Sex Roles, 57, 851- 864.
Hardin, M. & Greer, J. D. (2009). The influence of gender- role socialization, media use and sports participation on perceptions of gender appropriate sports. Journal of Sport Behavior, 32(2), 207- 226.
Lytton, H. & Romney, D.M. (1991). Parents’ differential socialization of boys and girls: A meta- analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 267- 296.
Martin, C.L., & Ruble, D. (2004). Children’s search for gender cues: Cognitive perspectives on gender development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(2), 67- 70.
Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture & psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.