Media Moment: What I Learned from (Paw)-Patrolling My Kids’ TV Show

Media Moment: What I Learned from (Paw)-Patrolling My Kids’ TV Show

Recently my two sons, ages 3 and 5, started watching a Nickelodeon show called Paw Patrol.  This series is aimed at preschoolers and features six rescue dogs and their tech-savvy teen owner, Ryder. Whenever Ryder sees someone in trouble, he alerts the pups. They figure out which dog is best suited to fixing the particular problem based on their different talents and vehicles (police car, fire truck, helicopter, etc.) and then they head out to the rescue.

The kids immediately liked the show, each picking out a favorite character and watching to see how they came to the rescue. The characters are clearly designed for product sales, each associated with a vehicle that transforms—and with six of different dogs, kids want to obtain the whole collection.

As I watched a few episodes with them, I found the gender imbalance immediately noticeable. There are five male pups and one female pup (dressed in pink, of course), and a friend named Katie who is billed as a veterinarian but is most often seen washing and grooming the pups. To build up the kids’ media literacy skills, I made sure to question, out loud, “Isn’t it strange that there is only one girl pup? I mean, you have about equal numbers of boys and girls in your classes, right?” and “If Katie is a veterinarian, how come they always show her washing the dogs instead of helping them feel better?”

As disappointed as I was in the gender representation of the characters, I was excited to see that the show opened up a new world of play for the kids. They dug out vehicles they hadn’t played with in months and grabbed animals from around the house, then paired each one up and pretended they were the dogs. The boys were playing so well together that I mentioned it to my sister, a child care provider. She pointed out, “Well, they have a common script now. They’re both clear on the way the characters act and what’s supposed to happen.” As any parent knows, seeing your children play together without fighting for even 10 minutes is often a miracle. So I had to hand it to Paw Patrol for giving me that miracle.

I have continued to let the boys watch one episode of Paw Patrol a day if they ask for it, and was pleased to see that the producers recently added a second female pup, Everest. Though I don’t love the show, my kids do, so I do my best to help them learn how to think critically about what they see. They get to watch their favorite characters, and I get 10 minutes of play without an argument! Win-win.

~ Brandy King