Children’s Media Almost Entirely Silent on Climate Change

December 6, 2022

A new report finds 74% of parents agree children’s media should include climate solutions

Contact:
Clarke Williams
[email protected] | 703-554-7378

Washington, DC, December 6 —Today, Climate Media for Kids released Breaking the Silence: Kids’ Media Can Step Up on Climate Change, a new report which finds, despite demand from 74% of parents, children’s television shows and popular family movies lack information about climate change and climate solutions. Breaking the Silence found only a handful of references to climate change—across hundreds of hours of content. 

This is the first report from the Aspen Institute’s This Is Planet Ed: Climate Media for Kids, a new initiative to help media makers support families in building awareness of climate science and solutions. Co-chaired by Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, and John B. King Jr., 10th U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, This Is Planet Ed seeks to unlock the power of education to advance climate solutions.

“Teaching and learning does not just happen in schools. With its reach and influence, children’s media can help positively empower today’s young people to lead a sustainable future,” said Whitman. “This report underscores the critical opportunity for media to help children understand the world, the environment, and how to advance climate solutions.”

Breaking the Silence found only nine individual TV episodes with direct references to climate change or global warming–1% of the total episodes reviewed. Only two episodes (0.3% of the total episodes reviewed) discussed the role of humans in producing heat-trapping gasses that warm the planet. 

Climate Media for Kids reviewed 31 educational and nature-themed series available on the 10 most-recognized kids’ networks, including Netflix, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, as well as the 20 most popular family movies of 2021. for direct reference to climate and related themes in the official plot descriptions. 

“We believe children’s media can play a crucial role in helping children understand, cope with, and respond to the climate crisis,” said Anya Kamenetz, author, parenting expert and senior advisor to This Is Planet Ed, who co-authored the report. 

“But children’s media today is essentially silent on the climate–particularly on its human origins.” 

This report finds parent demand for children’s media to “look like the planet” –74% of parents believe children’s media should include information about climate solutions. 

Despite limited coverage, the report also highlights successful examples of media tackling climate in an age-appropriate way, including The Octonauts: Above and Beyond (Netflix), Molly of Denali (PBS) and Nick Jr News (Nickelodeon). These shows use recommended approaches for communicating climate change with younger audiences, including connecting climate change to solutions with positive framing.

With this report, Climate Media for Kids elevates the opportunity for the children’s entertainment industry to be a partner in climate solutions. The initiative focuses on empowering media makers to support children and their families in building scientifically grounded awareness and understanding of climate science, impacts, and solutions, and ultimately empower families to act and feel hopeful about the future. 

This Is Planet Ed partners with individuals and organizations with a range of expertise across early years, K-12, higher education, and children’s media. For more information about individual projects like K12 Climate Action, the Early Years Task Force, Higher Ed Climate Action, and Climate Media for Kids, visit ThisIsPlanetEd.org and join the conversation by following This Is Planet Ed on Twitter (@thisisplaneted, https://twitter.com/ThisIsPlanetEd) and Instagram (@thisisplaneted, https://www.instagram.com/thisisplaneted/).

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org

This Is Planet Ed is an initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program that intends to unlock the power of education as a force for climate action, climate solutions, and environmental justice to empower the rising generation to lead a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future. This Is Planet Ed will work across Early Years, K-12, Higher Education, and Children’s Media to build our societal capacity to advance climate solutions. Visit www.thisisplaneted.org/

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