PBS KIDS 24/7 Just Launched!

Most of us have watched children’s programming on PBS – after all, they were the pioneers of fun, educational TV for tots with Sesame Street.

But Sesame Street debuted in 1969. The times have changed, and so have the way kids watch their favorite shows. They’ve shifted away from the tube in the living room and moved more toward laptops, tablets and other mobile devices.

PBS is changing with the times, too. To better cater to the needs of this growing digital demand, PBS has just launched a new 24/7 TV channel, PBS KIDS, which is available on television through local stations, but also as a streaming service via the web and the PBS KIDS app.

While the new station and its streaming service is geared to be especially helpful to those children in low-income households (because those are more likely to rely on TV for educational content), they are also targeting those homes where the family’s only access to the internet is through their mobile devices. One-hundred-and-seven PBS stations will carry the PBS KIDS channel on TV, which brings it to 90% of U.S. TV households. Most debuted the new channel on Monday, January 16th, but the others will follow in the months ahead.

The company’s president and CEO Paula Kerger explains the motivation for the decision to expand, saying, “Parents know that PBS KIDS makes a difference in their children’s lives, which is why so many have said they would value having access to our content throughout the day.” She added: “Television continues to be the most widely used platform for children’s educational content, especially among low-income families. The new PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream offered by local member stations ensure that educational media is available to all families, all the time and via a platform that works for them. Given that 54% of all children nationwide do not have the opportunity to attend preschool, providing access is a critical element of our public service mission.”

If you’re concerned about your kids getting too much screen-time as it is, it’s interesting to note that the AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) has relaxed its standards. Education programing and pursuits get a pass, while playing games and social networking should still be kept to just a couple of hours per day.

What’s more, the younger the child, the more you should be watching with them, newly-conducted studies show. For infants and toddlers, age 15 months to 2 years, there is evidence from a couple of small studies that little ones can learn new words from educational media, if and only if parents are watching alongside them, repeating what the video says. Looks like treating a video or an app like a picture book is the best bet for increasing word comprehension and vocabulary.

So, what will you be watching on PBS KIDS? There’s a lot to choose from and perhaps what’s most notable about channel is that live, streaming video is not just tacked on – it’s part of the main offering. The network has the live stream available to all viewers via the web, through the PBSKIDS.org site, as well as to mobile users on the free PBS KIDS Video app.

That app has been around for some time, featuring favorite PBS children’s programming, such as Curious George, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts, Peg + Cat, Nature Cat, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Dinosaur Train, Ready Jet Go! and of course, Sesame Street. But the live TV service will now become a part of that app and will offer a total of 21 PBS KIDS series, including those listed.

Unlike Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Viacom’s Noggin, PBS’s streaming service is free. In fact, it is now the only no-cost national 24/7 kids TV and streaming service in the U.S. Pretty impressive! Who knows what the Trump administration will bring when it comes to non-profits and news organizations like PBS, but for now Kerger is optimistic that the channels can and will remain free of cost to the consumer. “The fact that we are trusted, that we have a presence in every community in this country, makes us different from any other media organization... At the end of the day, we are inherently local media organizations,” and that, she believes, gives PBS a unique voice in the national conversation.

Free is good, but PBS isn’t going to stop there. Later in the year, the live stream will introduce an integrated games feature where kids can toggle between the show they’re watching, to an activity that builds on what they are learning. PBS press releases say that this feature is grounded in research, and will increase the learning gains when compared with TV alone.

But wait, there’s more! Starting April 21, 2017, the channel will also launch PBS KIDS Family Night from 7 to 9 PM on Friday evenings. PBS KIDS will offer family-friendly flicks, current faves, and new premieres from its children’s series (including a new Daniel Tiger movie, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip). Seems like it’s well worth checking out (and you can’t beat the price!).

What are your thoughts on PBS KIDS 24/7?

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