Boys have it pretty good when it comes to TV. From Sid the Science Kid and Jake and the Never Land Piratesto Psych and Modern Family, great male characters are everywhere. In fact, 70 percent of kids’ TV characters are male, according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media.
But shows that reinforce outdated male stereotypes (and females ones, for that matter) persist. And TV is still a huge part of kids’ lives: It continues to dominate their screen time, and study after study shows that it really does impact kids’ perception and behavior.
The good news is that parents have lots of viewing options these days. If you want to find shows that broaden the definition of what it means to be a man, look for:
- Nonstereotypical characters. Weed out shows that focus on brute strength, stoic demeanors, and clueless hijinks in favor of ones that highlight realistic emotions and thoughtful behavior.
- Strong male and female characters. Select shows with plenty of powerful or complex female leads to offer boys a wide view of femininity.
- Positive conflict resolution. Counteract the violence and villains with examples of boys and men working out problems with understanding and compassion.
The following are some of our favorite shows for boys and what we love about them.
These shows avoid gender stereotypes:
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, age 3+
From the folks who brought Mr. Rogers to kids of the 1970s, this show focuses on a sweet boy tiger and his friends who experience sadness, frustration, disappointment, and joy — just like all preschoolers — and then offers up age-appropriate ways of dealing with these strong feelings.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, age 8+
Captain Picard maintains his composure under pressure, but he isn’t afraid to express fear, hurt, or love when the time is right. Other male characters express a range of emotions or, in Data’s case, a complete absence of emotion, which only serves to highlight how important feelings are to being a human.
- Degrassi, age 14+
The teens on Degrassi deal with realistic situations, from experimenting with alcohol and sex to academic pressure and relationship woes. Through it all, boys and girls deal with these emotionally rocky times with a range of reactions not limited to gender stereotypes.