I recently watched an old film with my 2 year old (One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing) and was aghast at the level of racial stereotyping in it. I like to show old films but I am not sure how to explain that social attitudes have changed since a film (books as well I suppose) was made.

At the moment he is just too young to understand but I would like to be ready with a solid explanation when he does start to understand.

It isn't just old films (The lone ranger looked pretty bad to me), but is substantally worse the older media is.

I would like to expose my son to a wide range of material but don't want him to learn bad attitudes.

  • I won't change your question to not reflect your actual question, but there are stereotypes found in all ages (I'd suggest past and future) which are not only racial in nature. May 5, 2014 at 3:49
  • 3
    For a 2 year old, I'd suggest not showing racist material until he's older for you to properly explain it.
    – DA01
    May 5, 2014 at 5:24
  • Going to echo DA01's sentiments here. At this point, your son's development will be on based largely on modelling the behaviour that he observes. Even if he's speaking now, his learning is based on observation rather than direction.
    – Noah
    May 5, 2014 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


At such a young age, there isn't a great degree of direct teaching you can do which will be effective. Modeling appropriate behavior is very likely your best option. When we see bad, rude, or unsavory actions whether on television, in a movie, or in our everyday lives, we can talk to our children and say, "That was so mean. I don't like that." The nature of the derision adjusts as the child ages, but by expressing our own distaste in terms which our children can relate with, it is our views which are more likely to be adopted than the undesirable.

As for the comment to your question, I'd like to reply to that as well: I was 100% absolutely, positively certain to teach my daughter from the earliest of ages the difference between reality and artistic presentations (e.g. cartoons, movies, books). That served its purpose quite well. For example, one time she was inadvertently exposed to a violent murder scene in a movie at a friend's house. I went to talk to her about it and she simply explained that it was all fake and they used special makeup for it, but she didn't think that was a good use of makeup.

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