Gender in children's and youth television

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Annedroids – International Reception Study on Promoting Interest in MINT Subjects (Mathematics, Informatics, Natural Sciences and Technology)

The successful children’s programme Annedroidswas produced by the Canadian production company Sinking Ship on behalf of Amazon US and the German public service children’s channel KiKA. The programme focuses on 11 year-old Anne, who builds robots and androids and has various adventures with her friends and technological companions. At the same time, each episode conveys specialist knowledge in the field of natural sciences and technology. The programme’s objective is to promote interest in the MINT subjects (mathematics, informatics, natural sciences and technology), particularly among girls. 
The study by the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television (IZI) asks what influence a programme such as Annedroids can have on girls’ and boys’ attitudes towards MINT. In addition, the study investigates whether the programme – which, from the point of view of current reception research, is put together in an optimal way – is helping to change attitudes in relation to gender stereotypes and MINT subjects. To this end, the IZI interviewed 488 children between the ages of six and twelve (203 in the USA, 98 in Canada and 187 in Germany). 

Results from Germany: Overall, the programme is extremely popular in Germany. 88% think it is “really really good”, and this even rises to 90% among seven to nine year-olds. Overall, the boys and girls in both age groups were very much in agreement on this, with 90% of them saying that they would watch the programme again. In comparison with various other studies of this kind, this data is extremely positive. Furthermore, the programme did significantly better in Germany than in the USA and Canada.  
A comparison of the countries shows that gender clichés – particularly when it comes to technology – are much more prevalent among children in Germany than they are among children in the USA and Canada. These findings were unexpected. However, the programme Annedroids at least weakens these clichés a little.
Watching a programme for children in which a girl is enthusiastic about technology and competently engages with MINT subjects can significantly change basic attitudes towards technology. After watching the programme, double the number of girls think that technology could be fun, and that even children of their own age could invent something useful with technology. In fact, triple the number of girls refute the cliché “girls and robots don’t really go together”. Furthermore, there is an increase in girls’ openness towards MINT professions as an option for the future, and there is a decrease in girls wanting to work in the beauty industry or wanting to be a star on the stage. Children – and girls in particular – are still behind their peers in North America in the natural sciences and in terms of their openness towards technology. However, they can significantly catch up if they watch the programme. The girls, at least, are beginning to question their presuppositions around gender clichés. 

Götz, Maya; Mendel, Caroline; Pritscher, Sophia; Eckhardt Rodriguez, Ana: Can a children's TV show change clichés? A study on girls and STEM issues before and after watching Annedroids. TelevIZIon, 29/2016/E, 52-54.