That said, every kid needs some old-school, Elmo-free Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. (No, "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" is not the same; it's insipid and dumb by comparison.)
Also, back in the day, Square One TV had a police-procedural parody called Mathnet that was still loads better than network TV's attempt at a mathematical-cop show for adults (Numb3rs).
It literally couldn't get any better for a kid than PBS in the 70s or 80s.
I have a soft spot for that show beyond its lack of Dora-level annoyance: my son is on the autism spectrum, and for some time, his only speech was echolalic. He was most fond of using phrases uttered by one of the Backyardigans, Austin, who himself didn't speak much. He always used the echoed speech in contextually appropriate ways - one time he saw snow falling outside, and said, "it's..it's..it's snowing," with the exact prosody of Austin's utterance of that line in "The Secret of Snow". That was very illuminating for me as the father of a developmentally delayed child. I didn't know how to predict his ability to function as he got older, or really his understanding of language at all...But that day, the sight of gently falling snow never seemed so amazing to me.
When it was on, I often watched it with them; I didn't want to lob a bowling ball at my television, which Caillou made me consider doing. And don't even get me started on Kai-Lan...
Funny, because DTN is a award winning show with excellent writers and a body of research and consulting experts backing up their approach. It's only "insipid" if you try to analyze it as an adult. For kids, its engaging and important.
Compare and contrast to other popular shows like Pororo that, while charming and well executed, really don't have nearly so much science behind them.
Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (and early Sesame Street) surely deserve massive amounts of praise, but they were not formed perfectly, from whole cloth, as perfect educational programs. As with any other field, our knowledge of child psychology and early development is continuing to evolve, and there are brilliant people doing amazing work in this area.
I remember them fondly and praise them regularly, but I try to keep this in mind. Modern kids shows are optimized for kids. Even Dora is specifically optimized for very young children. It appears insipid because it's repetitive to us. But to a child, it's carefully tuned.
Then again, I grew up watching (and loving) Loony Tunes. There's a depth there that this modern-day pap doesn't possess. The Teletubies never did Wagner or the Barber of Seville; Bugs Bunny did.
The brains of little kids do not work the same way that adult brains do, so shows really do need to be constructed differently. Mr. Rogers knew this--it was a big part of the success of his show--but both research and TV technology have come a long way since he started his show.
It would be bad if a show was simply A/B tested for stickyness, but that's not the story with the shows I mentioned above.
> Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.
And as a parent who has held back normal bodily functions for an entire day while they did all the "right" things for their kids, sometimes the safest and best thing for everyone involved is to sit the kids in front of TV and know they will stay put for 15 minutes, so you can go to the toilet and then cook their dinner.
Also, the other day our 4 year old told me he wanted to be a paleontologist so he can find bones and coprolite. He didn't learn those words from me.
Please see various MODERN materials and their sources at: http://www.zerotothree.org/parenting-resources/screen-sense/...
Sounds pretty much the same as the AAP advice, just more cynical.
It looks from elsewhere in this thread you're taking this as a criticism of your parenting skills. Yes, it is easier just to turn the TV on to distract your kids for 15 minutes. When all is said and done we don't know what the effects are and even if they aren't great, there's millions of other kids doing the same thing so it'll probably be OK. But that doesn't mean that other people might find it in their interests to find a way to eliminate that tool for distraction. Maybe you can too - suppose the kids helped you with dinner? Even very young children can be taught to contribute with basic tasks.
The fundamental difference is the inclusion of "guided" vs "unguided." There is this implicit assumption that "screen time" means "without continuous parent interaction" because our conversation is colored by the early 90s and television. The AAP advice doesn't differentiate. There's also a strong scent of "excluded middle" in your argument. Two 30 minute sessions of screen time, guided by parents, with programming specifically and scientifically designed for that age bracket is a hell of a lot different than parking your child in front of a television for 2 hours while you answer emails.
But even if we ignore that, 24/7 parenting presence is the province of the ultra rich, and often even then the province of women delegated to full primary caregiver status. So smug it up, friend. It's simply not economically possible for many people. You're still just another maybe-parent judging people on the internet.
I'll listen to my pediatrician and consults, thanks.
> This resource provides guidelines for parents and
caregivers of children younger than 3 years on how to use screens in ways that minimize the potential negative effects and maximize learning.
> Although the body of research on the effect of screen media
(beyond TV viewing) is still relatively limited, it clearly points to the following implications for parents and other caregivers: • Be thoughtful about how you use media with
young children. Set limits on screen time to be sure that children have plenty of time exploring the real, 3-D world
with family and friends. ( ... )
Though the guide doesn't explicitly say it, 0 screen time still seems like the optimal satisfaction of the presented guidelines.
There is absolutely no doubt that real world interactions are what toddler minds are optimized for. Most importantly, children without autism spectrum disorder learn from social interactions. There isn't much of any evidence that you sharing teaching tool with your child that is from a tablet is detrimental.
My family limits my daughter's unguided screen time pretty strictly. She gets 1 episode of sesame street in the morning and one episode of Daniel Tiger at another point in the day. If she is sick or has a supersleep day, we'll get 1 episode of something else she likes to help keep her calm.
But there is tablet and phone time where we focus on interaction. At her age, a camera is fascinating. She takes me to someplace (usually someplace she played earlier) and we take a picture, she then looks a the picture. As per the guidelines, we don't focus on technical features but rather on the social and real world interactions. I feel absolutely no concern about this. I can see her working out how toe camera works and experimenting, and it's amazing. She's fascinated by beaing able to see things from multiple angles at once, and I think this is healthy.
But 0 screen time is just so totally unrealistic in a world of smartphones. What's more, it's not how MANY of us grew up. I was using text consoles, unguided, within a year of learning to read.
I look at people who say all screen time is detrimental with the same dim view as people who say vaccines cause autism. It's often cause driven.
Please read the material before speaking up. Much of it is sourced to actual data, unlike your casual dismissal of my parenting skills.
For example the repetitive sing songs are not educations theory, simply an animation trick to fit the show to the timeslot available. Ie. Script ended 10seconds short, no problem just loop "I'm a map" 3 more times.
But for goodness sake, all of the programmes talked about here are ENTERTAINMENT.
While I certainly enjoyed the shows I saw as a kid, the current crop seem more suitable for kids to me (ie, more balanced in terms of gender issues, racism and violence). I would rather my kids watched what is available now, than what I watched 30 years ago.
I remember that; it was awesome. Drenched in cheesiness, but it served its goal, and it did manage the "tainment" part of "edutainment".
It's entertaining, educational, and clever enough for parents to watch and not want to gouge our eyes out.
Just watched it the other day, very entertaining and makes the viewer think by themselves.
"The story you're about to hear is a fib, but it's short. The names are made up but the problems are real."
Honestly surprised I remember that gag since it's been ages since I watched that show but I did love those segments. It was like the Square One answer to 3-2-1 Contact's "Bloodhound Gang".
As a kid in the 60s, we spent most of our time unsupervised roaming the countryside. The 60s Superman comics were the best, and for TV we had Bugs Bunny on Saturday mornings. Chemistry sets weren't yet emasculated.
Somehow we learned to read without SS :-)
But statistically speaking less of you learned to read, and those that did learned to read less well. The effects of Sesame Street were studied very thoroughly.
Don't forget such gems as "The Electric Company", "3-2-1 Contact", "Reading Rainbow", "Mr. Wizard", "Bill Nye" and others.
It seemed for a while that TV producers really wanted to pursue the mission of Television as an educational medium. I honestly don't know anything about the quality of today's material, but the material I grew up with was really well done on so many facets. It wasn't just about learning basic reading or arithmetic, but also about how to socialize well, diversity training, problem solving, emotional growth and more. It was multi-faceted and didn't pander to children or just spend 30 minutes entertaining them with vapid songs. I feel like there was a real earnest effort by very smart educators to use the medium to its fullest and I grew up enjoying those shows more than afternoon cartoons and other 30 minute commercials.
By comparison Barney, Teletubbies, and those late 90s, early 2000s "educational shows" are pure garbage. I can still sit down as an adult and find enjoyment in classic Sesame Street. And I think that's part of the difference, the modern shows were basically entertainment and electronic babysitters for busy parents, SST, Mr. R and classic children's shows taught on multiple levels and parents weren't bored out of their minds to sit with their own kids and help reinforce the lessons.
(Mathnet was one of my favorite segments of its parent show, It was funny and entertaining, but introduced basic math skills as well as critical thinking skills. It also introduced me to this kind of slightly archaic story-style which helped give me a life-long love of classic radio dramas and comedies)
Fortunately, PBS Newshour is still tops.
I think we're remembering the same show. Yes, do look it up; your kids will thank you.
Hunt's Elmo character broke that. As a parent, that's what ruined Sesame Street.
I often sing the "we solved the problem" song when I fix something at work.
I'm pretty sure that my 2 year old daughter feeds off my enjoyment of the show; its the only show she'll start doing a little happy dance to when the opening jingle comes on.
I really like the whole drawn-on-graph-paper look, too.
Not a good role model.
Same with Caillou, poor guy is too depressed...
For those who didn't grow up with Mister Rogers, I encourage you to watch this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKy7ljRr0AA, to get a sense of how effective he was as a speaker.
He even brought up mental health (this being the late 60s) which is remarkable as there hasn't been much focus on mental health until very recently (and still not enough).
I wish I had grown up with his show, I don't remember if we just didn't get it or if I just always missed it but it seems he had a good thing going on.
You might need to go rewatch some MRN. Fred Rogers is basically a saint, but MRN had plenty of insipidness of its own.
I love George Shrinks though. It's simple adventures, but they created something that's actually interesting without being overly complex.
Well, except for, you know, books.
I don't really buy any of this "need" stuff when it comes to TV (or that one form is significantly better than another).
If you drop your kid in front of anything and they turn into a slackjaw zombie (as my son tends to do), that's bad.
If you drop your kid in front of anything that you watch, engage, and use as a jumping off point for interaction, that's fine.
Don't confuse file type with content :)
It is evidence of an emergent media phenomenon (albeit a slow one) - that a single character on an iconic platform changed its dynamic enough to cause its identity to come into question.
Because Sesame Street leveraged novelty and maturity, the emergence of a cutesy, immature, "it's all about MEEE!" type of character represents a sort of test case, and in this case, the evidence is that the show changed as the result.
Children could identify with Elmo for their entire lives. The Elmo of today would be finishing school and starting a job, and only visiting occasionally. He would take a very different role than that of 20 years ago.
Granted he wasn't anywhere near as frequent as the puppet characters, but still amazing.
Fortunately, I'm old enough to have watched Sesame Street before Elmo took over.
As an aside, I wish someone would revive The Electric Company.
Is there anything like this available for kids now? It's so stripped down and catchy that, even as an adult, I could watch these all day long.
Really and truly, the Electric Company was a very, very clever show that mixed humor and education in a unique way.
The company that produced these DVDs never imagined that children would be watching; they imagined it was only nostalgic adults. So the "best of" DVDs, when first produced, included condom ads! After enough parents protested that this wasn't the most appropriate kind of advertising to put on a children's DVD, the company issued new ones with more child-friendly advertising.
That's a more rigid synthetic phonics approach (although some people claim they're saying the sounds wrong) and it's short (5 minutes?) animated stories rather than the more abstract thing you linked to. I'm English, I've never seen that before, it looks good and I wish there was more like it around at the moment. There is way too much really bad children's tv with a tiny smear of "education" sprinkled on top.
The last couple of years of Christmas lectures have been really good family viewing (for our family!), as were the RSC lecture series last year.
But having said that I've watched far too much Sesame street and yes Elmo usually gets more time than the rest but not always. The author paints a picture like Elmo always gets most of the time but the truth is he isn't played THAT much more than the others. Even in the hurricane episode that is cited in the article Big Bird was on screen longer than twice the time of any other monster.
So yes he needs to be downplayed a little bit but the article is over the top as well. In fact watching many of the episodes in the past 5 years and you'd think Abby was gunning for Elmo's spot; she gets quite a lot of screen time especially with fairy school.
The OP points out how some of the older Sesame Street monsters have an edgy quality to balance their cuddliness. That was distinctive of Henson. His regional TV commercials from the 1950s already showed something similar: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3929121.
I saw the episode where they talked about Mr. Hooper's death. It was the saddest thing I had seen in a very long time. Very emotional and probably the most honest episode ever made.
Sesame Street's role in child development has changed radically as the general opinion on how TV should interact with kids has changed. These kids shows have been pushed down the age bracket, appealing to younger markets where demand is a lot greater for the content. Older kids shows? They exist in the spaces between cartoon network hot properties, and do a good job of confronting the complex issues kids will face from 4-12. The same is true of The Mr. Rogers->Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. They're tuned for totally different age ranges and requirements.
I dunno how many of you are parents. I have a 15 month old daughter. A constant chime of the following information is reiterated by child care consulting, doctors, and developmental evaluators:
- Sensory experiences are more important than anything right now.
- Emotional stability is more important than anything.
- Disregard the advice about "no screen time." Screens shouldn't be a substitute for parenting, but kids can learn to use tablets startlingly early in life and interactive education is provably better than passive education. In some specific subjects, interactive solo play is superior even to parentally guided play.
Let's also not forget: This article is just false. The idea that no one ever corrects Elmo? Totally wrong. Elmo gets a lot of screen time, but over the last year we've seen a huge amount of investment in a lot of other characters. Cookie Monster, Abby's complexity, and most importantly a huge increase in the time humans spend on sesame street talking.
The idea that Seasme Street doesn't touch on tricky subjects is false. Just last week the PBS Kids app rotated the episode on "Minne Myna". It's a two-sided story. On the one hand, Big Bird makes a case to bird court that someone else can't steal his nest just because he left it. "Finders Keepers is a bad rule."
But it's also trying to talk to kids and say it is okay to be sad and that they SHOULD be sad if they lose their homes. The episode is delicately touching on the subject of home eviction. Someone who has never been evicted might not even notice, but anyone who has lost a home will immediately realize what Big Bird's singing about. Big Bird gets a happy ending, but the episode leaves reminding kids that many other birds didn't get their nests back and that it's okay to be sad.
I see so much of these kinds of articles. All I can do is despair as my generation begins to make the exact same mistake as our outrageous parents who had very similar things to say about childhood programming which we all wax nostalgically on now.
Thank you so much for this insightful post. As the parent of a two and four-year-old, reading this article all I could think was, "But Sesame Street is not for you!!! Who cares if your adult-self doesn't like Elmo?"
People don't seem to understand that Sesame Street was established on and heavily influenced by hard scientific research , and that research has found letting your children watch the show gives them a head-start on learning before they enter public school. When the show changes, science informs those changes.
And I can see it with my boys. Elmo youtube videos taught my two-year-old the alphabet, his shapes, and counting to 10, which blows his daycare teachers away. My four-year-old got the same jump on these concepts from Elmo. Funny enough, he seems to have outgrown the character and has moved onto Team Umizoomi  where he enjoys problem-based learning for math and patterns. It's best to watch these shows with the kids, engage the learning with them as they watch, and also make references to the characters and events to reinforce the learning away from the television.
I also find all the "get off my lawn" comments in this thread and in these kinds of articles disheartening. I agree that it seems like my generation is just adopting the cycle of knee-jerk cynicism to change to which our elders subjected us.
Lots of people weren't adults 20 years ago when Elmo was hitting his stride as the most prominent member of Sesame Street, though.
Sesame street (and the Electric Company) helped me with my early reading and numeric ability, long before Elmo showed up. You can watch classic episodes on Netflix and see that there was actually more of that stuff in the early years than there is today, with more elaborate animations and songs that made it easier for kids to remember.
I and many people I know have been saying this since Elmo first became popular. It isn't a new hipster opinion its always been true, for some people.
(Inspired by http://www.deviantart.com/art/Sesame-Street-Fight-Elmo-Bison...).
Malcolm Gladwell touched on this in the Tipping Point.
Sesame Street pioneered the use of TV to entertain and educate toddlers. But a lot of the original content was beyond the comprehension of younger children.
While Elmo is annoying to us, he is perfect at keeping the attention of a young child, and while he has their attention he can teach them things.
The author's point was that he isn't, though-- at least not good things. He's self-centered and immature; he avoids things that are "hard" and acts selfishly.
In most television shows and movies what people are looking for is somebody that represents them - call it an "avatar" if you must. When kids watch Sesame Street they relate directly to Elmo.
He's younger, smaller, has an insatiable curiosity, and is in a permanent mode of questioning and discovery. He even has similar mannerisms to children - he laughs a lot, has lots of energy, and is frequently confused as to what's happening around him.
The reason the author doesn't like Elmo is because Elmo acts like a two year old. The reason two year olds love Elmo is because Elmo acts like a two year old.
Sesame Street was created for two-year-olds, not bitter Internet pundits.
It may have been created for two-year-olds, but do you know what it was created TO DO for two-year-olds?
The article has it exactly right. The purpose of Sesame Street was never entertainment. Their purpose was to use TV to help preschool aged kids get a head start on academics and emotional development, while pushing a specific set of liberal social values around inclusiveness on them. It is a matter of historical record that this was the goal.
In order to accomplish this goal, Sesame Street deliberately had to have enough entertainment value to keep kids watching. And pulled in enough pop culture people to give babysitters a reason to turn it on. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G95MA6RxJTs for an example of how they combined those two.) But those are means to an end, not the end. And it is very important to always push kids to do a little more than they think they can do.
The current dominance and role of Elmo reflects how Sesame Street has lost sight of their initial vision and confused the means (entertainment) for the end.
I think the author's reasons for not liking Elmo are actually the ones he stated and took an entire essay to carefully explain.
And I find the author's detailed reasons compelling. I think there's something to be said in modeling behavior that you'd want a younger child to aspire to rather than just presenting them a mirror as they are today. I'm with him in feeling that it just isn't as challenging or valuable. I absolutely think the old show did a much better job of that.
Two year olds are incredibly diverse. Elmo exhibits only certain, particular behaviors of a two-year-old: he is self-centered, demands everyone else's attention, and is mostly oblivious to the fact that he's part of a larger social dynamic.
In the early days of Snuffy and Big Bird, they acted more like two-year-olds also, but they leaned on other qualities that are often evident in people who are learning language and movement: they were thoughtful, unafraid to say things that didn't make sense at first blush, and descriptive about their imaginations.
The way you put this refutes your argument. Sesame Street isn't about feeding addictions. Children are addicted to sugar, too. The genius of the program was always its ability to give them more substantive fare while still enchanting them.
IMO the article makes some key distinctions, while remaining good-humored and self-aware. That's the opposite of being a "bitter internet pundit". There's real psychological insight there, applicable beyond Sesame Street, and (the grad student in me wishes to add) some fine cultural criticism as well.
For sure, my evidence is anecdotal: my daughter enjoyed the show from ages two to three, maybe a year and a half total, and now has zero interest. She still finds Elmo cute and cuddly but gets bored by his segments way before they end.
Nope. Watch some first season episodes (they're on Netflix) and even in the very first shows, where they clearly didn't know what they were doing yet and the characters were poorly defined and less funny, and it's clear that they were aiming for slightly older kids and to engage them intelligently. An obvious clue to this is to look at the age range of the children they had on the show, which was more clustered around the 4-5 year mark.
Sesame Street was created for two-year-olds, not bitter Internet pundits.
So maybe it's just that Elmo is polarizing even with kids?
The issue here isn't really what toddlers like or don't like. The issue is, if you're going to sit your kid in front of a screen to watch something, what are they getting out of it? A 3- or 4-year old seeing 6-year old behavior in Big Bird sees a role model in how to behave. Seeing 3-year-old behavior in Elmo reinforces how they're already behaving.
But what they like, going in, is often worst for them.
If you put both ice cream and a spinach salad in front of a child, which will he pursue by choice?
Being challenged is often initially uncomfortable. But that's part of the point - to learn the long-term value of delayed gratification.
We just need Oscar the Grouch to start mailing Elmo to Abu Dhabi all the time. Problem solved.
Nova did a series on the formation and geological history of North America, and the local station happened to air it following their Sunday morning children's programming. My six year old sat through each episode entirely enraptured with it, and he asked all sorts of questions after. My younger kid, not so much.
I know Cosmos is going to be above his ability to completely understand, but I think it'd probably keep his attention and prompt questions.
The bad Kotaku articles rarely get submitted, and the ones that do never get upvotes. The system works.
I guess its interesting from a sense of irony or maybe a creative exercise. But it almost feels like textbook "clickbait".
The author says he's a teacher, I'd be interested to know if he has children himself.
If I ever have kids, I'm going to continue to not have TV in my home. They can read all the books I read when I was a kid, or watch select TV shows from the past 20+ years that aren't just constant pointless bullshit.
Later, the parents conceded that the media blackout backfired, as their kid couldn't relate to a lot of the things their peers were talking about- even if it is 'pointless bullshit'. They weren't like a social pariah or anything, but to this day, they feel uncomfortable in those conversations where you recall tv/movies growing up.
Not really defending tv, but there's probably a good middle ground that lets the kid still participate in their culture.
I will freely admit that I don't get a lot of references to shows people watched growing up. But honestly, this is such a tiny thing I really doubt it's worth mentioning. If it comes up, you smile, nod, and move on.
I would certainly say I'm better for it - I spent time outdoors actually learning and doing things or reading instead. And sure, I read a lot of relative trash, but even the trash of the day contained references to real things that warranted looking up or learning. And I also ended up reading a lot of literature and nonfiction.
Hang on. Some old books sell well and so keep getting re-printed, but they're not very good.
There are some great books for children created each year.
The Kate Greenaway award is mostly (but not entirely) for younger children (because it's an award for excellent illustration) and the Carnegie award is mostly for older children (because it's an award for older children).
This website compares books that are "most read" (eg Roald Dahl) and "most loved" (eg not Dahl). http://whatkidsarereading.co.uk/
I read all the "good" stuff before I was in high school.
If I have a kid, he/she is reading allllllll of that. If I had a 12th grade reading level when I was in like 5th or 6th grade, so can they.
Any good current show will eventually become a good old show. And if it is good enough and matches my tastes well enough, I'll eventually hear enough about it that I choose to watch it. And I'm OK with that. I have enough going on in my life that I have no need to rush to watch things just because they are currently being released.
So I believe you when you say that there are great modern shows. And I do not see that as a reason to get a TV.
Disclaimer. I grew up without a TV back when that was really weird. As a grown-up I spent periods both with and without a TV. I have no TV by choice. I do have children, but youtube channels seem to fill the place in their lives that TV serves for most kids.
Too much detail.
However you do have a point - they do have to sell toys and a ten year old will probably not buy a big bird doll. This requirement causes them to invent more addictive characters, so as to spin off dolls that younger kids will wish to own. On the other side they may have tried to push Ernie and Bert dolls to teenagers, this might have created a more diverse offering.
Another point is that the principle that work with consumer markets are not very good when applied to education: the target audience here still has a limited ability to evaluate your effort as an educator...
here it says that 31% of the funding comes from government/corporate support;
Also they don't seem to be making that much money; them bloody capitalists are rather poor themselves. I guess Dora is doing better in terms of finances - they must have more limited expenses.
Republicans killed funding for public TV
"Sorry Kotaku, acutally ___insert controversial person___ ruined sesame street"
I can understand the lamentations, but really, if you were expecting your kids to learn the hard lessons of life from television programs, you deserve all the tantrums you get.
Seriously, more hard hitting journalism by the folks that brought us "Snaktaku reviews the Big Mac" and "We really pissed off some game devs and had to buy our own copy of games" authors.
Sorry but to this day I still cannot see the appeal of these shows. Why did you like it?