Children's Television Throughout the Decades (1950-2016)
Children's television has long been debated for both its educational benefits and also for it's detrimental effects. Understanding the structure of children's television will give us insight into how children's television is beneficial or negative for the viewer. We are looking to critically analyze these shows to determine how children's television has changed over time and how it affects its viewers. To study the structure of these shows, we analyzed one episode of seven different shows over seven decades (1950-2016) and looked at:
General Show Details
Animated vs. Live Action
When the show ran
Other relevant information
Educational or entertaining
What was going on at the time (wars, political events, trends, etc.)
School Policies during show's run
Cultural norms of the time
For our research, we analyzed one show per decade from 1950-2016. Our shows were selected based on their popularity and overall rating. Our analyzed shows are as follows:
The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
The Magic School Bus
The Powerpuff Girls (2016)
*All ratings courtesy of IMDB.com
1950's: The Mickey Mouse Club
Black and White
Ran from 1955-1996
All characters are joyful and well mannered
Characters display healthy and culturally appropriate morals for the time
Singing, dancing, skits, etc.
Made to embody vision of Walt Disney
School's still mainly segregated
Brown vs. Board of Education (1955)
1960's: The Jetsons
Ran from 1962-1988
Hanna-Barbera Productions, also responsible for
The Flinstones and Scooby Doo.
Traditional nuclear family
All characters heavily stereotyped
Bumbling dad, airheaded secretary, hotheaded boss, trophy wife, ditzy teenage girl, etc.
Characters display questionable morals
Drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.
Kicking robot, drunk robot hiccuping, etc.
Made during Cold War, specifically during the space race
Visible optimism for how science could positively impact quality of life in line with cultural attitude of the 1960's
1961: First fully automated subway line opens in NYC. This episode of The Jetsons featured George (the father) losing his job to a robot
1970's: Sesame Street
Live action with puppetry
Ran from 1969-Current
Children of all races
Frequent visits from celebrities of all genders and races such as Stevie Wonder
Music / Singalongs
Number and Phonetic Exercises
Environmental movement beginning
First Earth Day recognized
First home personal computers manufactured
1980's: Reading Rainbow
Ran from 1983-1999
Host: LeVar Burton
Various cultures and races
Children of various ages and ethnicities
Viewers are guided through a series of stories by host LeVar Burton
Stories are always tied together through a theme such as a certain culture, period of history, event, etc.
1990's: The Magic School Bus
Ran from 1994-1997
High energy, postive attitudes
Miss Frizzle: teacher who guided her students in inquiry based science lessons
Inquisitive, multicultural students
Fictional adventures on a "Magic School Bus" delves into real life science facts
Hubble Telescope launched into space
End of Cold War
Internet rises to prominence
First cloned mammal
2000's: Spongebob Squarepants
Ran from 1999-2012
Mostly male characters
Diversity portrayed via many different kinds of sea creatures
Stingy boss, donut eating police officers, etc.
Show amuses and entertains with underlying themes of friendship and honesty
Morals: Spongebob is guided by his intention to be friendly and helpful to everyone
Digital media on the rise
Spongebob Squarepants came out the first year Napster appeared (first major music download service) the way we are consuming media is starting to change.
2010's: Powerpuff Girls (2016)
First episoded aired 4/8/2016
Reboot of show from 1997
All characters heavily stereotyped
Hippies, Meat-loving men, etc.
Main characters part of superhero team that must work together
Teamwork, balance, emotional understanding, mindfulness
This is a girl centric show being produced in a time when Feminism and Gender Equality are at the front of the social consciousness
The way we consume media now is largely digital and on demand, episodes are available to stream online
Television has evolved throughout the years by always reflected the cultural values present at the time. Teachers can use television in their classrooms as a tool to relate to students, as well as to supplement their learning experience through the engaging medium of television.