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“No Silly Girls’ Films!” Analysis of Estonian Preschool Children’s Gender Specific Tastes in Media Favourites and their Possible Implications for Preschool Learning Practices

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Abstract

Although children often look for guidance on what is gender-appropriate behaviour from the media, children’s media favourites are still an underused learning resource in preschools, especially in the context of engaging in gender and values education. Focus-group interviews were conducted with 61 children aged from 5.5 to 7 years from three geographically different preschools in Estonia to investigate the nature of media content that Estonian preschool children liked the most and who were the media characters that they considered as role models. The findings are presented with suggestions on how to use children’s media favourites in the preschool curriculum. Our findings revealed strong gender-specific tastes in the media content that the preschool children liked and the characters that they favoured. While boys preferred action-adventure and scary movies and named mainly superheroes or characters with superpowers as their favourites, girls enjoyed family shows, films and comedies and liked characters such as fairies, angels, princesses and similar fictional characters. The findings indicated that preschool children are an active and enthusiastic media audience. The children eagerly took on the role of co-performers of media experiences, acted out aspects of the programs and mimicked the activities of their favourites. We offer suggestions for teachers on how to make use of children’s media favourites in teaching so as to help the children not only to negotiate issues of gender but also to understand how the media shape behaviour, values, and emotional well-being.

Résumé

Même si les enfants cherchent à être guidés sur ce que sont des comportements de genre appropriés provenant des médias, les préférences médiatiques des enfants sont encore des ressources sous-utilisées au préscolaire, surtout dans le contexte de l’engagement en éducation aux valeurs et au genre. Des entrevues par groupe de discussion ont été menées auprès de 61 enfants de 5,5 à 7 ans de trois écoles maternelles géographiquement différentes d’Estonie pour étudier la nature du contenu médiatique que les enfants estoniens préfèrent et quels sont les personnages qu’ils considèrent des modèles. Les résultats sont présentés avec des suggestions sur la façon d’utiliser les préférences médiatiques des enfants dans le programme préscolaire. Nos résultats révèlent des goûts très spécifiques au genre dans les contenus médiatiques que les enfants aiment et les personnages qu’ils préfèrent. Alors que les garçons préfèrent des films d’action et d’aventure qui font peur et nomment surtout des super héros ou des personnages super puissants comme favoris, les filles se plaisent dans des émissions familiales, des films et des comédies et aiment des personnages de fées, d’anges, de princesses et autres personnages fictifs similaires. Les résultats indiquent que les enfants d´âge préscolaire constituent un public médiatique actif et enthousiaste. Les enfants tenaient avec empressement le rôle de co-interprètes des expériences médiatiques, jouaient des scènes des émissions et mimaient les activités de leurs personnages favoris. Nous faisons des suggestions aux enseignants sur la façon de se servir des préférences médiatiques des enfants dans l’enseignement pour aider les enfants non seulement à négocier les questions de genre mais aussi à comprendre comment les médias façonnent le comportement, les valeurs et le bien-être émotionnel.

Resumen

Aunque los niños suelen buscar en los medios de comunicación orientaciones sobre qué es un comportamiento adecuado a su género, los contenidos audiovisuales más populares entre los niños son un recurso de aprendizaje infra-utilizado en las guarderías, especialmente en el contexto y la práctica de la educación en género y en valores. Se llevaron a cabo veinticinco entrevistas en grupos focales (N = 61) con niños de 5,5 a 7 años de tres centros preescolares de tres regiones geográficas distintas en Estonia para investigar qué tipo de contenidos mediáticos les gustan más a los preescolares estonios y cuáles son sus personajes favoritos a los que consideran un modelo. Los resultados del estudio son interpretados para ofrecer soluciones sobre cómo implementar los materiales audiovisuales favoritos de los niños en el contexto del currículum preescolar. Hemos encontrado preferencias de género muy marcadas en el contenido audiovisual que les gusta a los niños y en los personajes que prefieren. Mientras los niños preferían películas de acción y terror y mencionaban fundamentalmente a súper-héroes o personajes con poderes como sus favoritos, las niñas preferían programas familiares, películas y comedias y les gustaban más las hadas, ángeles, princesas y otros personajes de ficción fuera de la realidad. Los resultados indican que los preescolares no son sólo una audiencia activa y entusiasta de contenidos audiovisuales, sino que también asumen con entusiasmo un papel de co-representantes de los contenidos audiovisuales a la par que resaltan ciertos aspectos de los programas e imitan las actividades de los que son sus favoritos. Ofrecemos sugerencias a los profesores sobre cómo hacer uso de los contenidos audiovisuales favoritos de los niños en la enseñanza, para ayudarles no sólo a negociar los asuntos de género, sino también a formar su comportamiento, valores y bienestar emocional.

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Acknowledgments

The preparation of this article was supported by the research Grant No. 8527 by Estonian Research Council.

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Correspondence to Andra Siibak.

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Siibak, A., Vinter, K. “No Silly Girls’ Films!” Analysis of Estonian Preschool Children’s Gender Specific Tastes in Media Favourites and their Possible Implications for Preschool Learning Practices. IJEC 46, 357–372 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-014-0120-y

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