A better streaming service for kids

Why isn't there a streaming service specifically focused on (the well-being of) children? In this blog, I fantasize about how such a streaming service should look.
Robert Roose
By Robert Roose

A better streaming service for kids

Ideally, of course, you'd prefer that your children don't watch television at all, but this isn't feasible in every family. Watching television provides both child and parent with some peace. However, I do believe that you can be mindful of what and how your children watch. I was startled by this quote from the book 'Aandacht' by Gloria Mark:

"In a long-term study in New Zealand, 1037 children were followed from ages three to fifteen. The researchers found that concentration problems were greater later in life if the children had watched more television, and this outcome persisted after other possible factors (gender, socioeconomic status, early attention problems, cognitive abilities) were accounted for. According to the researchers, exposure to rapidly changing images makes people less adept at viewing behavior that requires sustained focus. This research once again highlights that watching television programs or films with short shot lengths can condition us to lose attention more quickly on other devices, such as computers or smartphones."

I started paying attention to this and noticed how fast-paced some children's television programs are. Where television watching should actually be a moment of calm, you end up with children who are exhausted after watching these series.

The ideal streaming service for children

That got me thinking. What would an ideal streaming service for children look like?

Curated media

First and foremost, it's important that the television programs are carefully chosen. Where the shots don't change too quickly and there's room to tell a story slowly. I think of programs like:

  • Bluey
  • Peppa Pig
  • Care Bears

I notice that North European (Dutch, Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian) series often meet these requirements.

Additionally, the series should obviously not contain violence or swearing and mainly promote good behaviour.

No auto-play

With every streaming service nowadays, it's standard for the next episode to start automatically after each one. This keeps you mindlessly watching. A streaming service aimed at children should do the opposite. When an episode ends, you should consciously choose whether to watch the next episode.

This gives children more control over whether they indeed want to continue watching television or perhaps do something else. It's also a good moment for parents to agree with the child on when television watching is over. This is more difficult if the next episode is automatically loaded.

Time slot

I've noticed that when I'm clear with the children about when television watching is over, there's less discussion and struggle over when the TV should be turned off. Now I have to constantly indicate this (just 10 more minutes or just one more episode), but it would be nice if you could set this on the streaming service. Then it can clearly show on the screen how many minutes are left to watch. The streaming service can also suggest episodes of series that can still be watched within the remaining time or indicate that if a too long episode is started, it cannot be finished.

My children usually watch a few episodes of the same series in a row. Ideally, I would like to set it so that they can watch a certain number of episodes of a particular series today. When that number is reached, the TV locks.

How I solve it now

Despite the fact that the aforementioned streaming service does not (yet) exist, I currently solve it as follows. I have subscribed to NPO Start because it contains the calmest children's programs. NPO is the Dutch public broadcaster. If you're not Dutch you I suggest looking at the public broadcaster of your country such as BBC for the United Kingdom or PBS for the United States and see if they offer a streaming service. I suspect that most television series, chosen and purchased by a public broadcaster, are slower and more educational than offerings from commercial parties.

Another advantage of NPO Start is that a new episode is not automatically started when the current one ends. Although I suspect this is more of a bug than a feature that I hope they don't fix in the future.

With these two things, the best of the service has been named. The app is further disastrous because it is impossible to get a clear A to Z overview of all available programs. Also, it is not (yet) possible to indicate favourites or to create a children's account where only children's content is available.

We watch television at our home via the Nvidia Shield. This is a device with Android TV. The advantage of this is that I can use the tvusage app. With this, you can set how long the TV can be used before it gets 'locked'. It's also easy to give a few extra minutes if you see that the episode is almost over. This app has reduced the conflict at home when the TV needs to be turned off.

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