The Kids of Public Broadcasting Services

Gina Quatrino, Staff Writer

In contemporary society, most of a child’s day is spent watching television (TV). While technology and TV shows continue to advance and appeal to all generations, the educational value of what consumers are being shown is questionable. Before cable, people relied on broadcast networks, notably from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which was founded in 1970. This network created PBS Kids, which has been a main source for children’s entertainment since its creation in 1999. Memorable shows such as “Sesame Street” and “Arthur” originated from this network and taught kids valuable lessons for life and their educational careers. “Sesame Street” has been a household name for generations, allowing kids to watch and learn the fundamentals for school. With fun characters like Count Von Count, who taught numbers, and the Cookie Monster, who explained letters, adolescents could be reading and writing before starting kindergarten. Studies from the Sesame Workshop have shown that teenagers who watched “Sesame Street” frequently in their early childhood recieved grade point averages that were roughly 16% higher than those who were raised on cable networks.

“Arthur” is another PBS Kids classic that has been teaching children life skills since its debut in 1996. Although the show’s main focus is not on math or science, the show teaches important life lessons such as how to treat others and accepting those who are different. The show is centered mainly around an 8-year-old aardvark named Arthur and his friends and family. Each episode goes through typical life events that most children can relate to, like dealing with bullies or moving to a new school. Every character within the show comes from a different background and social status. Arthur’s best friend in the show, Buster Baxter, is a white rabbit who lives with a single mom. Through the episodes they show his struggle of having a split family and learning to accept a new step-dad. “Arthur” is a dynamic and educational show that is arguably one of the best of its network. It allows children to learn social skills that they may miss with reality TV based shows shown in modern cable networks like the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

In the past, cable channels produced shows that were educational, such as “The Proud Family” from the Disney Channel and “Dora the Explorer” from Nickelodeon. “The Proud Family” centered around an African American family and their everyday struggles and lifestyle. “Dora The Explorer” was an interactive show that taught kids words in Spanish. However, as time went on, these shows faded into the background while new shows popped up to replace them. It is true that the new shows have entertainment quality to children of all ages, but their educational value is debatable. Reality TV kid shows like “Jessie,” which airs on the Disney Channel lack educational value. “Jessie” follows the life of a nanny from a small town trying to take care of one of the richest families in New York. The show is filmed like a sitcom and also has small elements of stereotyping that are weak attempts at comedy. If one were to strip the show to its core, there are no valuable lessons to be learned from watching it. Another show from the Disney Channel, “Dog with a Blog,” also lacks any educational value. This show follows a family whose dog runs an online blog of his everyday life. The premise of the show itself is ridiculous, even for kids. Just because a show is targeted towards children does not mean it has to be non educational or foolish.

Shows on Nickelodeon have their share of bad reputations as well. “Breadwinners” was a popular show that recently ended in 2016. The show was about two green ducks who drove a large van and delivered bread. The description of the show already gives away its lack of value. It taught nothing of importance when it comes to educational aspects, nor was it particularly funny in any way other than maybe its use of silly language to earn cheap laughs. While it still airs reruns on Nickelodeon, it is not a surprise that the show was discontinued for more seasons.

When it comes to children’s television, there is a clear network that dominates the rest, and that is PBS Kids. The shows it produces are educational as well as entertaining to a range of ages. The humor within their shows is not meant for cheap laughs, but rather jokes that allow kids to use their brains. While Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel have had their share of quality television, nothing compares to the important lessons PBS Kids TV shows contain.