You are a busy person and media companies get it, that’s why they’re here to be a parent in your absence. What you may have never considered is that media companies can also be bad parents. Thankfully, it’s actually pretty easy to figure out which conglomerate should be raising your children.
Local Babysitter crunched some aging data in order to get a rough idea of how many hours of advertising children are consuming on average while they sit in front of the boob tube. (ed. note: Not sure if that’s what they call iPads these days.) The website took the average number of commercial runtimes per hour (from the University of Michigan’s medical center) and the average number of hours per week that a kid spends watching TV (from the Nielson ratings agency) and calculated that children are consuming up to 400 hours of advertising per year. 400 freaking hours!
This data is, respectively, from 2010 and 2014, and things are changing fast but it’s fair to say that the 400-hour figure gets us somewhere close to an accurate figure on all the marketing being crammed down children’s throats. The takeaway is clear: Kids spend a stupid amount of time hoovering up ad content while their brains are mostly on autopilot, and that seems like a situation that’s probably not ideal.
So that brings us to the question of which streaming service is the best option for offloading your kid to a screen for an hour or ten. Sure, in a perfect world everyone would have time to attend to their kids every waking second but that seems like an unrealistic and possibly cruel expectation for most parents. Besides, parents have a lot of TV to catch up on themselves.
History has shown us that YouTube is the absolute worst idea for keeping your kid occupied, namely because the platform has largely ignored its ongoing toxic content problem and even seemingly innocuous videos have led unsuspecting viewers to some bizarre kid-unfriendly viewing—even in the YouTube Kids app. That leaves a few others.
Premium Hulu seems fine assuming kids can reasonably be expected to stay within the designation children’s tab on the platform, or if they were left to watch one or two episodes of a series. But kids are crafty. I was recently amazed by a child who was hardly old enough to tie their shoe but had somehow mastered the navigation of an iPad.
For that reason, Netflix would be a better option, as it has a designated user option to both limit the kinds of content kids have access to while also giving them plenty of options. It also has interactive shows that kids probably like and participation is learning, right? Ideal for everyone, and no ads!
If you really want to give your child some food for thought, though, the PBS app comes highly recommended by several of my colleagues, none of whom have children but all of whom have your best interest at heart. It’s also free from ads, and it has all kinds of brain-boosting shows to help your kids actually learn something. Sure, HBO has Sesame Street, but who’s going to leave their kid alone with the HBO app?
We have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Disney+ is coming soon to steal all of Netflix’s best content. Should you let Disney raise your kid? Trick question! Disney will be raising your kid whether you like it or not.
Listen, ads are horrible for everyone, but especially for young minds. If you’re going to let your TV be your babysitter, why not just cut the cord and avoid all that bullshit? And hey, if it’s any consolation, many of us here at Gizmodo dot com were raised by TVs and we turned out fine.