Even with channels blocked, kids can find their way to some distinctly, non-kid-friendly programming in the wide world of network, cable, and satellite TV. For any parent who has been horrified while channel-surfing, new television platforms are delivering an increasing number of exciting, very welcome alternatives.
When today’s parents and grandparents were growing up, Saturday morning cartoons and a few prime-time sit-coms on major networks were primary “TV for kids.” As the cable universe expanded and animated shows featuring adult themes and content also grew, so did increasing confusion over what constitutes “children’s programming.”
But media companies are increasingly hearing parents’ concerns and also seeing the scale and magnitude of the kids’ programming market. For example, digital distribution of Charlie & Company, a 13-episode preschool series featuring Charlie, the golden retriever, Miss Ellie, his “Anywhere Teacher,” and their cast of critter friends, which originally debuted on apps and DVDs, has now expanded to both Ameba TV and ToonGoggles™. Real-world settings that include an art studio, Coast Guard station, theater, and farm, help teach kids that learning can—and does—happen anywhere.
Also, since adults are already leaning toward on-demand, streaming TV, it’s natural that they are maximizing their subscriptions for the whole family. In March , a Washington Post article titled “Netflix Is Coming for Your Kids,” by Drew Harwell, reported that according to a Deloitte survey released the week prior, “Last year, 61 percent of U.S. consumers said a streaming video service was one of their three most irreplaceable subscriptions, up from 17 percent in 2012.” The same survey showed “Respondents ranked streaming video higher than a smartphone data plan (55 percent), landline telephone (38 percent) and a print or digital news subscription (26 percent).”
That same article noted that “Much of the $5 billion Netflix is spending this year on movies and TV shows will be spent on fare for the playground set,” adding that “The big-business battle for kids’ distracted attention spans has never been more competitive — or eye-poppingly lucrative…,” further observing that “About 20 of its 70 new and upcoming ‘global originals’ are geared specifically to kids…”
And it’s not just Netflix. In February, PBS announced the launch of free, 24/7 multiplatform PBS KIDS Services. Citing research gathered from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released in the 2014 Kids Count Data Book, PBS President and CEO Paula Kreger said in a press release, “Given that 54% of all children nationwide do not have the opportunity to attend preschool, providing access is a critical element of our public service mission.”
It’s no surprise that kids are tech-savvy consumers from a very early age. In a separate article titled “Children and Media,” PBS reported findings from a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, showing that for kids under 6, “On average, they spend about two hours a day with screen media - the same amount of time as they spend playing outside, and three times as much time as they spend reading or being read to,” “67% ask for particular shows,” “62% use the remote control to change channels,” and “71% ask for their favorite videos or DVDs.”
Certainly not all TV is “good” for kids, but studies repeatedly show that children can benefit substantially from watching educational TV. A show such as Charlie & Company develops multiple skills, including numbers, counting, letters, alphabet, vocabulary, focus, fine motor skills, problem-solving, attention, and following directions. Plus, with original songs and a stable of established characters, it entertains as well as teaches. Parents will also find that additional merchandise such as a coloring book and plush toy characters add to the multimedia, multisensory experience, combining traditional with leading-edge.
Kids can cuddle up with a furry friend as they playfully learn skills important for school success, and parents can be confident in its wholesome yet creatively challenging approaches.