Wednesday 13 April 2011

Children’s TV & Science ... the missed link

It’s Easter holidays here which set me wondering, children do not just learn about the world from the classroom, they learn about it from being outside, the media and their parents. From my childhood memories I don’t recall visiting too many geological sites, we went to plenty of museums, but frankly Sussex hardly abounds with interesting Geological sites (actually 
seeing a rock is an event) so what does the media provide?

In the UK there is a whole host of children’s TV channels, the two main ones running from 7am until 7pm are CBBC (run by the partially state owned BBC) and CITV (run by Independent broadcasting funded via adverts). There are also channels only available via satellite or cable – but since they are not available to all homes and feature virtually nothing of value I’ll ignore them

So, what’s on TV?

On CBBC,, today, the 13th of April children could enjoy 2hrs 50 of ‘The Legend of Dick and Dom’ which is about as wholesome as a Happy Meal and features nothing of value, let alone educational value. 3 episodes of ‘Arthur’, a variety of light drama interspersed by news.   A virtually identical story is present with tomorrows planning; although that does include 30 minutes of nature programming in the form of ‘deadly 60’ a Steve Irwin inspired search for animals that can kill you. The Children’s programming does not just infect a channel it also spills over onto the BBC’s flagship channel, that actually has some science, ‘Blast Lab’ which is a sort of experiments show – dealing mainly with making a mess via the mediums of physics and chemistry

On CITV, the story is equally poor, for today, the 13th of April,
No box of wholesome scientific programming for children here!
from 6am to 6pm children can watch; Fireman Sam (maybe he sorts out a volcano? ), ‘The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That’ – ‘that’ appears to be magical adventures. Just under an hour of Pokémon, bit of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, two hours of ‘Horrid Henry’, ‘Almost Naked Animals’  and ‘Atomic Betty’ ... all in all no scientific TV.

So, between the two major children’s TV channels there is only one hour of science program, within the Easter holidays where it can be expected that the channel will enjoy significant viewership (partially today as there is some cloud over the UK). Now of course it is holidays, but surely children should have more educational program, science as a whole is such a brilliant subject so much more exciting and interesting that bloody Pokémon or ‘Dick and Dom’.  

Alternatively the channel could use this time to teach children to cook, healthy eating, community guidelines – areas which are important but ignored. Even history, typically an area of great stories and plenty of blood and disease has been replaced by rubbish.

Within mainstream TV the BBC has a world renowned record for producing brilliant nature, travel and scientific programming – children’s programming; arguably an important part of a child’s development is left to be a variety of worthless programmes.  When I was younger (many moons ago....) there was a brilliant nature program ‘The Really Wild Show’ I can still remember some of the information shared on that program, it won a host of awards – but now is gone; what will children watching TV today know? Little of science, nature or history. Originally, I had intended that I would find a children’s TV program that was fairly scientific and write a brief post on it, I am dismayed that no such program, geological or otherwise exists.

Future Scientists?
Image source: The Telegraph
The BBC (I’ve given up with ITV – they never produce anything worth watching anyway) does run a children’s news program, named ‘Newsround’ which airs from between 2 and 10 minutes (not to get in the way of quality resourceful programming). It covers essentially the same stories as the ‘adult’ news, but in a more child friendly way, well the service had, of course reported the Japanese quake and terrifying tsunami. It has given simple, pleasant descriptions and even a demonstration (from a different BBC program, but still useful) which can give interested children information into a fascinating phenomenon... but Newsround also has to cover news, sport, celebrity rubbish and whatever else – in a maximum of 10 minutes; severely stunting its usefulness.  From volunteering within events where children are present they do have an interest in natural sciences and geosciences, so why is an interest that could evolve into a passion being denied information at such a young age? Quite simply it is irresponsible of both the BBC and ITV to not include factual, useful children’s programming within their broadcast.