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With the launch of Detroit PBS Kids on January 16th, Detroit Public Television (DPTV) now runs the country’s first—and only—free station with children’s programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The new channel is aimed at a critical viewing audience, as despite many parents’ best efforts, digital content is a major resource of both education and entertainment beginning with preschool-age children (those roughly age two to five). The programs that air on the channel are designed with child development and educational specialists, who build cognitive skills, foundational math, and social and emotional learning into each episode as part of their “whole child approach.”

DPTVKidsStudies focusing on Southeast Michigan early childhood development show that one-third of preschool age children (210,000 total) are cared for within the home; one-third, or approximately 70,000 children, are seeking spots in preschools but are unable to find one. Only one-third of those of age are in some form of preschool or daycare, many programs of which are more custodial than educational. This data helped create partnerships between DPTV, Michigan State University and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, in order to, as MSU President Lou Anna Simon discussed at the launch event, “foster curiosity and develop talent.” 

The other issue with the PBS programming currently on the air was timing. Kids typically watch television at night and on the weekends, which didn’t line up with TV schedules. In particular, low-income and Hispanic families watch more television in the evenings. Yes, in an age of streaming content online and on demand, growing numbers do not watch television “live,” but children in homes without cable or satellite viewing options represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, and watch three times as much public television.

Detroit PBS Kids is also reflective of those changing ways in which we all consume content. While the channel is now live on TV sets throughout Southeast Michigan as DPTV Channel 56.2, on Comcast, Charter and other cable providers, it can also be streamed live online from anywhere. There is a free PBS Kids video app available for viewing on tablets, as well as through their own tablet, the Playtime Pad, a low-cost option that is fully equipped with educational content that works even without an internet connection.

detPBSkidsThose educational games and video segments are what continues to set public television apart from others as a trusted resource in the industry. In between shows, MSU helped create educational video content targeted towards parents and caregivers that focuses on math, science, literacy, technology and emotional development. Online games are interactive, as studies prove that when kids can explore a concept on more than one platform, they gain a better understanding and better learning outcomes. 

So whether by choice or necessity, parents can now be comforted in knowing that if they have to plop their kids in front of a screen, there is worthy content available any day, any time.