Children and the Future of TV

29 Nov

The Lotz introduction mentioned a trend of media scholars to cite their childrens’ conception of television as an indicator of where the medium might be moving in the future. For example, Lotz cites Jason Mittell’s anecdote about his daughter’s notion of the DVR in their home, ” [he] notes that when she came to ask, ‘what is on television?’ the question referred to what shows might be stored on the hard drive, as she had no sense of the limited access to scheduled programming assumed by most others” (Lotz, 18). This made me think of my three-year-old nephew, who, when asked if he wants to watch something on TV, will always assume that we mean pulling up one of his favorite shows on Netflix (which he usually watches on a television screen). If this is a recurring trend with today’s children–that they equate “television” with the instant gratification that comes with what is stored on their DVR or in their Netflix queue–how much will that affect the future of scheduled programming on network TV? Children’s programming certainly still exists on TV, but I’d be curious to see the recent trend in viewership over the years and whether it has been majorly impacted by the popularity of Netflix and similar formats that make it easier for kids to occupy themselves, whenever they (or their parents) want, with a low-maintenance activity.

On a similar note, what are we to make of the proliferation of the use of new tech gadgets among kids? I feel like there is a tendency among our peer group to scoff when we see a toddler “using” an iPad, but how much of that reaction is founded in jealousy, and how much in an actual disdain for the activity? Do the age-old critiques of the dangers of kids watching too much TV change when the format of the technology changes?

I would imagine that the increased portability of these new gadgets (laptops, phones, tablets) would cause many alarm when put into the hands of children. Previously, you could at least monitor what your kids were watching assuming they were just parked in front of the set in your living room. The sooner kids get their own tech toys, the harder it is to control what they’re exposed to.  At the same time, the spread of TV into multiple technological formats might hold a certain appeal to parents who now have the power to keep their kids visually entertained wherever they are, so long as they have one of these devices on them. It might be the kind of thing where we’ll have to wait and see what studies reveal concerning the long-term effects of these new formats of television viewing among children, but does anyone else have any thoughts in the meantime?

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2 Responses to “Children and the Future of TV”

  1. crystalfong November 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    The “danger of kids watching too much TV” in my opinion is about the amount of time spent on watching TV instead of other activities such as sports, reading and just human conversation. With new gadgets, kids when they are little will rather watch shows on Netflix on their iPad instead of playing with Lego’s which actually can help their creativity. As the format of technology keeps changing, it does make it easier for kids to access, which means they will grow up with choosing to interact with gadgets and media vs. in person interaction. Even for our generation, having smart phones where we can watch movie or browse facebook whenever we want usually results in a quiet room full of people who would rather surf the internet than talk to the person next to them.

  2. Jan Feldman December 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    So I actually worked in the market research department of Sesame Street over the summer, and got to work on some of this stuff. In general, TV ratings have been lower over the past few years due to audience fragmentation, with people watching on the internet or various devices, or doing time-shifted viewing with DVR. This is for both kids’ TV and regular adult programming. The thing about computer use, though, is that you need to be able to read. The only way very young children can really access content is to memorize where to click to get to a bookmarked website (which the parents would have to find initially); the only websites they can navigate themselves, without memorizing the path, are sites designed just for kids, that use pictures instead of words and often use audio instructions/prompts to help kids find what they’re looking for. These techniques are also easy to implement with tablet apps. But, parents still need to download the apps for them.

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