Nov. 12, 2008 -- A new report takes a dim view of most "educational/informational" (E/I) TV programs for kids, but it singles out eight programs that stand out from the pack.
Here are those eight programs -- in no particular order -- that have "exemplary" educational content, according to the report, titled "Educationally/Insufficient?" and funded by Children Now, a nonprofit group based in Oakland, Calif.
- Sesame Street (shown on PBS)
- Beakman's World (shown on commercial TV)
- Between the Lions (shown on PBS)
- 3-2-1 Penguins (shown on commercial TV)
- Cyberchase (shown on PBS)
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (shown on commercial TV)
- Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman (shown on PBS)
- Teen Kids News (shown on commercial TV)
Researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Arizona reviewed the 30 most widely aired children's educational programs shown on commercial broadcast stations, along with 10 children's TV shows aired on PBS.
The researchers rated the shows' educational quality based on how well the shows taught their main lesson and how important and applicable those lessons were.
"Only one in eight E/I episodes earned a rating of highly educational. In contrast, nearly twice as many were found to have only minimal educational value," the report states.
The researchers also noted that many shows emphasized social-emotional lessons about personal feelings and relationships. Fewer shows had cognitive-intellectual lessons -- which focus on facts, ideas, and concepts -- or health-related lessons.
It's not that all shows should be academic. "An ideal educational media environment should offer an ample amount of quality content of each type [social-emotional, cognitive-intellectual, and health-related," the report states.