An explosion of new digital options for kids' entertainment has pulled children's attention away from live TV to instant, on-demand programming, bringing with it new challenges for producers, policymakers and parents.
Why it matters: Gone are the days of Saturday morning cartoons, Sesame Street and cable shows being seen as the main attractions for kids-focused TV, Sara Fischer and I write. Now content is strewn across apps, social networks and streaming platforms. A lot of young kids now don't even know what a commercial is.
- While the majority of their media diet is still spent in front of a traditional television, that's declining each year as children migrate to digital platforms used by their parents.
TV networks are trying to modernize in order to keep up with kids' viewing habits. And a recent FCC proposal would relax rules over programming for kids' shows to help traditional broadcasters better compete with digital channels, like Netflix, Amazon or YouTube, which don't have to follow those rules.
But children's content is mostly unregulated on many streaming platforms. That's appealing for older children who find more regulated TV content boring — but it can also be dangerous.
- Ad-supported social media platforms give users a financial incentive to post salacious content that can be irresistible to kids to rack up likes, views and shares.
- The popular YouTube Kids app has been criticized for allowing bad actors to manipulate algorithms so that bizarre and sometimes disturbing videos get recommended to young viewers.
- There have been numerous incidents reported on Snapchat of child predators conning minors into sending them nude photos of themselves, through an encrypted, ephemeral chat system.
Some of the biggest crazes — like online tutorials about how to make slime, pulling pranks, or “unboxing” videos that show other kids opening and playing with toys — are creating a new generation of online video stars.
The bottom line: Kids are adopting new-age streaming video and social media habits faster than most regulators and parents can keep up.
Go deeper: Read the full story.