The Minds of Children Watching Educational Programming

The Federal Communications Commission passed an act in the 1990s called the Children’s Television Act. This act was passed to enhance television to provide children with a type of information learning center. It required television stations to air programs that were designed to be educational for children. The FCC required the stations to air at least 3 hours of these television programs every week. The E/I or education and information programs, are identified by an “E/I” bug in the corner of the screen. Price’s article about the educational programming peers into the minds of the audience, the children. What exactly are the children absorbing from these programs and are they understanding the message? Some of the messages that the programs are regarding are being understood by adults and are perplexing to children. Programs like “Clifford the Big Red Dog” are supposed to be educational to the children but sometimes the children miss the meaning. The three-legged dog episode that associate professor of communication arts Marie-Louise Mares studied is portraying something negative rather than positive. What happens is children remember the negative thing amidst all the positive things. Mares says, “Showing the fear can actually be more conflicting and frightening to kids.” If the kid sees something that invokes fear, they are going to remember that fear unless it is turned around into a positive that they can understand. The lesson in the episode might have been more comprehensible for the children if people were used because seeing a three-legged dog is a rare occurrence.

Daniel Anderson, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, also studied the behavior of children and educational television programs. Anderson is right when he says, “you’re dealing with children who don’t need complexity.” Children are simple. They don’t think much about things. They just do it. To try to make a program more educational for the children by changing it around creating variety, like they did when they gave “Sesame Street” a makeover, might create adverse effects. The children were not connected to the newer version of the show and as a result, viewers were lost. Keeping it simple is the best way to go with children because their minds are just beginning to develop.

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