Podcasts, which allow viewers to download video material into their iPods to watch at their own convenience, has always been a secret weapon for harassed parents looking for a way to entertain bored and listless children. Think long road trips, or the typical meltdowns at restaurants, doctor’s clinics, or grocery lines. Bring out the iPod, and suddenly, the kids have something to do leaving Mommy and Daddy to go about their task without fear of the Tantrum from Hell.
The cartoon industry has caught on. Today, there are podcast videos specifically for children, which are either delivered for free with advertising, or can be downloaded for a minimal subscription rate. For example, Radio Disney has been sending cartoons-on-the-go, taking this billion-dollar family entertainment company from the widescreen to the wee screen.
Tinkerbell would’ve been proud.
Other cartoon characters to jump on the pod: Kedou the Bear, and his adventures (or misadventures) of growing up, Buck Howdy, and 123 Listen to Me. Many smaller, independent cartoon companies that otherwise may have had difficulty breaking into nationwide television are also bringing their shows to the web, for easy download.
The advantage of podcasts for kids go beyond acting as a babysitter. The educational content of many of these videos can be replayed again and again, wherever the child may be allowing for the repetition and reinforcement that young learners need. It doesn’t even have to be about the ABCs or the 123s: there are nursery rhymes, vocabulary builders, even simple documentaries on the trip to the zoo.
Podcasting has also unleashed a whole new (and very young) generation of directors: kids are starting to make podcasts as well, and sharing their files on podcast forums and parenting sites.
It’s not surprising, then, for a nine-year-old to say that he’s just aired his first mini documentary. This tech-savvy generation, as at home with the PC as with their paper and crayons, can easily use the software used for making podcast videos. It’s an excellent way of encouraging them to use their imagination, and if several kids are involved in a video, it also teaches social skills and important values like discipline, concentration, and problem-solving.
One podcast made by a group of twelve year olds was part of a history project they did for school, and centered on the historical buildings in their area. While it’s not going to win any Oscar awards (yet), it did inject a little excitement and fun into an activity that most kids would not have found particularly interesting.
Sometimes, the podcasts consist of the school plays and performances of the kids, allowing relatives from around the country to watch their child sing, dance, and possibly walk around the stage in a funny vegetable costume. So far, the feedback on this feature has been overwhelmingly positive. Children love being able to say that they’ve been on TV, while relatives are thankful to have access to the videos compiled by the schools or parent-teacher associations (some of them even include behind-the-scene footage!).
The podcasts have become a new way for children to explore, and enjoy, the world.