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Elevating Representation in Kids' Media

Our new rating for diverse representations will help families and educators identify media that shows acceptance and inclusion.

The media we consume play a critical role in shaping how we make sense of ourselves, our identities, and the world around us. It can perpetuate stereotypes and bias, exacerbating injustice and inequities. But it also presents an opportunity to reduce bias, end division, and be a gateway to a more inclusive future. ​​Starting today, families can find a new rating for diverse representation on all new reviews at commonsensemedia.org. Over the next several months, we'll also be digging into old titles and reevaluating them against this new standard.

At Common Sense, our role has always been to help families decide what's best for themselves. When we provide all the information, they can make informed decisions. And we're committed to ensuring that our media ratings and advice for families reflect, resonate with, and serve diverse audiences. But beyond pointing families to what we always call "the good stuff," we're also here to add to the conversation: providing resources for media literacy, and talking critically about what is and isn't happening in the media landscape.

Our latest research report, released today, reinforces how media representation is important to how kids build their understanding of both their own ethnic-racial group, and that of others. But TV shows, movies, and other media continue to fall short when it comes to representing diverse races and ethnicities by featuring too many White faces and too many stereotypical depictions of people of color. And that matters -- parents and caregivers believe media can help shape their kids' worldview, and they see media as a tool to help their kids' ethnic-racial development. They're looking for media that shows them non-stereotypical representations of their own culture, teaching acceptance and inclusion.

Our ratings have been research-backed since our inception, and this new report is the next step in our efforts to bring deeper nuance to how we rate and review for diverse representations. Understanding the connection between media and kids' understanding of ethnicity and race is extremely helpful, not only to head off problematic stereotypes at the pass, but also to point people in the direction of quality media.

Our editors have already been evaluating media for positive and negative representation for many years, including highlighting positive depictions of character and gender. But we wanted to go even deeper into this work and enhance our practices and processes to better address racial representation in our reviews.

So now when we review a movie, TV series, book, game, app, or website, we identify which traditionally marginalized groups are represented, including gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, religious backgrounds, socioeconomic status, or body shapes that have been underrepresented in media. Our team examines whether characters are realistic and relatable or shallow and stereotypical, whether they have agency or simply support a dominant character, and whether there are any problematic viewpoints or stereotypes that need to be called out.

Beyond our ratings, we have also worked to broaden our DEI lens by rebuilding our Editorial Advisory Council, evaluating our hiring practices to increase reviewer diversity, creating a position on the team for a content lead to oversee this work going forward, and providing implicit-bias workshops for all our reviewers and editors to ensure our reviews are reflective of and accessible to everyone who reads them.

Common Sense Media was founded nearly 20 years ago on the principle that media, at its best, can entertain, educate, and inspire. The new rating for diverse representations continues our founding mission to harness media's potential for good. And we're just getting started on this work -- over the next few months, we will be talking and listening to families, industry leaders, and content creators to collect feedback. Our goal is to continue to learn and improve how we highlight positive and negative representations of race, ethnicity, and other aspects in media.

With these ratings, we hope to set an example for recognizing diversity and inclusion in media, not just to support parents, educators, and caregivers as they look for opportunities to support their kids' ethnic-racial development, but also to encourage content creators to step up and ensure that kids everywhere feel included and celebrated.

Jill Murphy
Jill Murphy is Vice President & Editor-in-Chief at Common Sense Media. Jill joined Common Sense in January 2005, built the editorial department with founding Editor-in-Chief Liz Perle, and served as Deputy Managing Editor and later Managing Editor before becoming Editorial Director in 2010. She oversees the ratings and reviews for all media channels, including movies, TV, games, web, apps, music, and books. She's responsible for all parenting advice content, from conception to publication -- including tips, articles, and recommended lists. She has developed a variety of new content products, including our parent blog. Jill also works closely with content partners including Huffington Post, Yahoo!, DirecTV, Comcast, Netflix, and more to further leverage Common Sense Media's content library. Jill's commitment to Common Sense gives her the opportunity to help families avoid the TV shows she's devoted to (she's our resident expert on any and all reality TV). When she must, she shares the TV with her two young daughters, who watch Doc McStuffins and Word Girl; her husband, who watches sports and can't wait for more Walking Dead; and her dogs, who watch the door. Jill holds a BA from San Francisco State University in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, with an emphasis on writing and media literacy.