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What Kind of Learning Companion (Presenter) Would Children Like to Have?
Knowledge programmes are important for children; they facilitate learning, and if they are well made they are also a pleasure to watch. Usually the programmes are fronted by one or two presenters – mostly men – who present and explain something to the children. Do children want men to be the ones who explain the world to them? The IZI asked 3,399 children between the ages of seven and ten in 27 countries what kind of presenters they would like to see in a knowledge programme in which someone experiences, investigates and explains something exciting on their behalf. In addition, we asked the children to evaluate their own appearance, and we compared their responses with the descriptions they gave of their ideal learning facilitators.
Children predominantly want learning facilitators of their own sex – a little older than themselves, though. Boys, rather than girls, prefer an older learning companion. This is important information, considering the clear dominance of male learning companions on German children’s television (ratio 12:1).
In terms of image, too, there is a tendency for the children to want to see their own appearance reflected in that of the learning facilitator. At the same time, children also tend to orientate themselves by socially constructed ideals. If the children see themselves as corresponding to a socially established ideal (e.g. blue eyes, blonde hair, slim and with a light Caucasian skin tone), they would also like to see this in their learning companion. If children perceive themselves as having deviant external features (e.g. dark skin tone, green eyes, red hair, or being overweight), it is less common for them to want a presenter to look like them. There are certainly many reasons for this. The supposition is, however, that children hardly ever see presenters with positive appeal on television who have these features, so they find it more difficult to imagine that an attractive presenter could look like this. A good starting point for promoting quality in children’s television would be to employ presenters who reflect the reality of the country’s spectrum in terms of appearance and physicality.
Holler, Andrea; Götz, Maya; Egerer, Anne; Schwarz, Judith: “This is the TV presenter I'd like to have”. TelevIZIon, 25/2012/E, 30-31.
Holler, Andrea; Götz, Maya; Alper, Meryl: Children’s preferences for TV show hosts: an international perspective on learning from television. Journal of Children and Media, Volume 10, 2016 - Issue 4, 497-507.