Like nearly every media company in the world right now, PBS KIDS has seen the numbers of its viewers and game players rise, along with the amount of time people are on screens. We are happy that we can be a haven for families that are looking for safe, trustworthy content, especially at times when parents’ attention has to be elsewhere. But our goals go beyond that – every one of our shows and accompanying games has specific educational aims. For example, Donkey Hodie, premiering this month, focuses on emotional regulation, persistence, problem-solving, resilience and self-control for children ages 3-5. Plus, puppets! Silly, singing puppets!
In this era of screen saturation, we also have concerns, particularly when we sense that screen use has tipped over into the excessive. We have taken the term “screen zombie” from one of our fans to describe the moment when a person blanks out in front of a screen and is no longer responding to the outside world. Though it can and does occur with all humans, young children are especially prone to it. The most telling indicator of a screen zombie is a lack of response when calling that person’s name. If that happens in your midst, please shut the screen off, check the time, and either get that person active or send that person to bed! Warning: zombies can be grumpy, though if you make the zombie rule a habit, they’ll soon get used to it.
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Benjamin Kramer, PhD, is the director of education for Austin PBS.