Representation in media has gotten better, but parents are still searching for diversity in programming geared towards the youngest viewers.
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With screen time being somewhat unavoidable these days, diversity and inclusion in children's programming has become more important than ever. While it's easy to just sit our children in front of the TV and throw on their favorite YouTube channel, many parents are looking for shows with characters that more accurately represent their families. And while representation in media has gotten better, many parents are still searching for diversity in programming geared towards young viewers.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of screens before 18 months of age, some parents are more lenient to screen time rules. And it's almost as if by magic that when our little ones discover YouTube they inevitably find CoComelon. Whether it's the songs, the colors, or the fast pacing of the show most adults have a certain level of dislike for the CoComelon family. But one parent took to Reddit to point out another very obvious annoyance within kids' programming.

Reddit user u/ohheyydee took to the site to point out her observations. "I know I'll be downvoted but it's worth it. Representation is so important and I noticed there aren't many brown kids in toddler / baby cartoons. If they are, they're usually a side character," she noted.

The original poster (OP) added, "Here are some alternatives for you mamas with brown babies. Gracie's Corner. Jools TV. Bono and Fino. Akili and Me. Super Sema. Mr. Pete's Playlist. All on YouTube. Enjoy!"

An image of a mom and her kids watching a show on their iPad.
Credit: Getty Images.

Research shows that a lack of representation in media can lead to negative psychological outcomes for those with identities that are underrepresented or negatively portrayed. For example, a study on the effects of television exposure on the self-esteem of elementary-aged children showed that TV exposure was related to lower self-esteem for Black girls and boys and white girls, but was actually related to higher self-esteem for white boys.

In reply to the OP, someone wrote, "My struggle to find diversity is a bit different—my son is autistic and I've been looking for shows with autistic kids in it so he feels more included (and not just on special episodes like Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street have done)." They continued, "Hero Elementary on PBS has a character, AJ, who is both brown and autistic. I really like how they don't focus on the autism but normalize some things he may be struggling with. Always carries a comfort item (his backpack) puts headphones on when things get overwhelming—things like that."

PBS has done a great job at including children's programming with diverse cultures and abilities. Another user on the Reddit thread noted, "PBS Kids seems pretty diverse compared to other kids' entertainment outlets."

U/Ixcheltlalli recommended Daniel Tiger stating, "My daughter loves Daniel Tiger which I feel does a good job with representation. The lessons and jingles in each episode really help my daughter get through life too lol. Main character is a tiger and his friends are a mix of animals and people, but he has a female friend and classmate who is Black, a teacher who is Black, and his doctor is a Black woman. As a parent who is also very picky about what kinda television my child consumes, I'm a big fan of this show."

And while we can count PBS programming to feature a diverse selection of characters and abilities, more streaming platforms have been making an effort to make their content more diverse across the board. Netflix has a great selection of shows geared towards younger viewers that are diverse. Shows like Ada Twist Scientist and Gabby's Dollhouse are quickly gaining popularity in the homes of toddler and preschool parents.

"Ada Twist is amazing" Reddit user _linzertorte_ wrote. "Love how they talk to actual scientists each episode and that they're all from diverse backgrounds! The episode where they talk to the scientist that helped with the James Webb telescope got my daughter so interested in space that she wanted to watch the launch a few weeks ago."

Many users throughout the thread agreed: diversity in children's programming is important all around. "I am more upset you thought you may get downvoted for this comment," one user commented. "Representation is so important—and important for those that are represented regularly to see that the world does not revolve around them."

Disney Junior also has shows like Mira Royal Detective, Doc McStuffins and Elena of Avalor all featuring Black and brown lead characters with a variety of interests. These are also available to stream on Disney Plus.