KidThink What Today’s Kids are Thinking about educational television: Kids are choosing shows that are good for them

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, we've asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so...
January 1, 1997

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think will be talking to kids via Live Wire, Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and Live Wire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or have subjects you’d like to see Kid Think cover, call Bob Horne at 212-337-6410 (

This month, Live Wire went on-line to talk with kids age seven to 11 about their thoughts on educational television.

What we found:

At a time when many kids are being condemned for spending too many hours ‘vegging’ in front of the tube, we’ve found that learning is high on the list of priorities for today’s kids, and they are looking to their televisions to provide them with education outside of their classrooms.

Kids say they prefer to watch shows that have some educational content over programs that have none. They report that for at least half of their total TV viewing time each week, they choose educational shows. Liam, age 8, of Connecticut, says he prefers shows that have some educational value, ‘so I can learn some things earlier than some older grades.’

For some kids, TV viewing is closely monitored by parents, thereby affecting viewer choices. Aaron, age 11, of Michigan, reports, ‘My mom likes me to watch shows with some [educational value], if she lets me watch TV at all.’

Wishbone, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? were all mentioned by kids as programs that cover educational material that would later be taught in school. They liked the idea of getting a head start on understanding the topics. For our kids, there is a very definite connection between viewing educational shows and benefiting at school.

When we asked which stations come to mind when they think about educational programming, nearly all remotes pointed to PBS. Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, TBS and The History Channel were also chosen, but PBS is where kids look for their favorite educational shows. The number one choice among our kids was Wishbone. According to Meaghan, age 7, of Florida, ‘Wishbone is the best because I like to read and he talks about really good books.’ Bill Nye the Science Guy, The Magic School Bus and Kratts’ Creatures rounded out the top picks. Other favorites include Sesame Street, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, Beakman’s World, Arthur, Reading Rainbow and National Geographic specials.

While reading and science are ‘in’ for our seven- to 11-year-olds, these kids also say they want educational television viewing to be a family affair. Watching these shows with parents or siblings is preferable to watching them alone. Amy, age 6, of Ohio, says, ‘I like when we watch together because we can laugh at the funny stuff together.’ But many kids also look to their viewing partners to help them better understand the subject matter. David, age 11, of Georgia, says, ‘I prefer watching with someone because you can discuss the issues with them.’

What kids said:

Our kids had some very specific ideas about future educational program development. Here’s what they said when asked what kind of educational shows they would like to see:

‘It would teach about outer space. The characters would be cartoons and would be funny and the show would have no music. It would explore extraterrestrial life, with stuff about planets and stars.’ Nathan, Maryland, age 7

‘I would teach about air, airplanes, clouds and weather. I would teach the show. There would be rock-and-roll music.’ Billy, New York, age 8

‘I would make a show about dinosaurs and the different dinosaur periods. There would be animation, videos and films with special effects, puppets, robots and dinosaur songs.’ Talisa, Ohio, age 8

‘[A show with] yellow aliens with people teaching them about human life.’ Tabitha, Louisiana, age 8

‘I’d like to see a show about all the American Girls dolls with stories about the different times they lived in.’ Amy, Ohio, age 6

‘I would make a new math show and I would use mysteries to help everyone learn how to do math. There would be two kids, a girl and a boy, who would do the math. They would have an old lady who was very nice and who helped them when stuff got hard and made cookies for them.’ Aaron, Michigan, age 11

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