Previous research showed that primary school children held several misconceptions about genetics of concern for their future lives. Included were beliefs that genes and DNA are separate substances, with genes causing family resemblance and DNA identifying suspects at crime scenes. Responses to this work 'blamed' the mass media for these misunderstandings. This study aimed to determine whether that blame had any foundation by examining the media habits and conceptions about genes and DNA of Australian children. With little prior research considering the influence of entertainment mass media on children's academically relevant knowledge, this was an exploratory study with a mixed modes design. Data were collected by detailed media questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with 62 children aged 10-12 years, and subjected to content and thematic analysis. Specific mass media examples children reported using were examined for genetics content. Results indicate 5 h/day of media use, mostly television including crime shows, and that children perceived television to be their main source of information about genetics. Most children (89 %) knew DNA, 60 % knew genes, and more was known about uses of DNA outside the body such as crime solving or resolving family relationships than about its biological nature and function. Half believed DNA is only in blood and body parts used for forensics. These concepts paralleled the themes emerging from the media examples. The results indicate that the mass media is a pervasive teacher of children, and that fundamental concepts could be introduced earlier in schools to establish scientific concepts before misconceptions arise. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.