Priming the future seafarer: Should children’s TV shows go to sea?

There is a shortage of credentialed mariners both in the United States and worldwide.  Short term solutions to engage recent graduates from maritime academies and enhancement of living conditions to retain current mariners are being explored.  But, what of the future mariner?  The mariner that might not yet be born?  Or that is currently playing with blocks and learning to speak?

The Genius of Play website developed the video below, which includes some interesting statistics.

It seems hard to believe that children as young as 2, 3 or 4 might be developing interests that will form their life interests and careers.  But, anecdotal evidence has certainly shown this to be true in my own family, with one daughter planning to be a registered nurse from the age of 6.  While family members being involved in a particular field might attribute for some early interests, The Genius of Play opines that up to 40% of children are influenced by the media they consume.

Why is this of interest?  Well, just a couple of weeks ago, my granddaughters were clamoring to watch Paw Patrol, a popular series on Nick Jr.  In a change from previous episodes, I noticed that the “pups” were focusing on and driving trucks – big rigs.  They were wearing trucker hats and, at one point, discussed why horns were important.  Coming shortly after a N-MERPAC (National Merchant Personnel Advisory Committee) meeting that had focused on mariner shortages, I commented to family members that it would be a great idea if Paw Patrol went to sea.

It wasn’t until I did a little more research that I discovered that Paw Patrol HAD gone to sea in several episodes (link below).  While not necessarily portraying the maritime industry in a realistic manner, the episodes did offer a window into life on the water.

Additionally, the water-based Paw Patrol episodes presented working on the water and vessels in a semi-realistic manner (i.e. the pups were operating vessels).  This contrasts with children’s TV programs such as Theodore Tugboat which anthropomorphized tugboats and other vessels in an unrealistic manner.

Giorgio Di Petra of Bonn University brings us The MasterChef Effect.  This paper explores the relationship between the popular television program and an increase in students in vocational programs for hospitality and catering.  These vocational programs are viewed as a first step on the path to a career as chef.  Additionally, they address the correlation between TV shows such as “Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)” driving an increase in entrants to forensic investigation programs.

Not only does The MasterChef Effect drive increased participation in vocational programs (roughly a 0.5% – 1% increase of viewership), it also effected the sales or use of ingredients showcased.  And anyone with children (or grandchildren for that matter) who watch some of these popular shows, the clamor for toys and anything associated with them is easy to understand.

Why does that matter for the maritime industry?  We’re not trying to sell toys, but what about programs such as Sea Scouts or other entry points to the maritime industry?  Could programs such as Paw Patrol (or other variant) be used to accurately portray the maritime industry to “hook” children in their formative years?  Could television programs be developed to encourage teenagers’ participation in maritime activities in a more focused manner?  Shows such as “Deadliest Catch” are unlikely to get many to go to sea, but there’s a lot of less sensational material available.

In the end, the long term goal would be to identify the maritime industry to young children and teenagers (developing adults?) in a realistic, positive manner.

Let’s be safe out there!

Additional Reading and Links

The Genius of Play – New Research Shows Childhood Play Impacts Future Career Paths

The Impact of Television Programmes on Teenage Career Aspirations- The MasterChef Effect – Di Pietro (2016) – Sea Patroller Wiki – ‘PAW Patrol’ Unveils ‘Big Truck Pups’ Theme; To Introduce New Character, Location and Toys (2022)

The influence of television on children’s gender role socialization – Susan Witt (2000) 


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