KLRU, our local PBS affiliate, will soon offer kids’ television programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a new channel. That means when you’re cooking dinner, your kids can be watching educational programming like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street” and “Ready Jet Go!”
PBS’ research has shown that kids are watching TV most often at night or on weekends,says Maury Sullivan, vice president of community engagement at KLRU, and yet, their programming has been available on TV typically on weekday mornings and afternoons,
Beginning April 1, KLRU will offer the new channel, KLRU PBS Kids, on local TV channel 18.4. It joins KLRU on 18, KLRU Create on 18.2 and KLRU Q on 18.3. 18.4 is currently the home of the Spanish-language channel V Me. That channel is going away because the national producer is no longer providing that content. Many regular shows on KLRU are available in Spanish by switching to SAP — second audio program — as you watch.
You don’t have to wait until April 1 to see the new KLRU PBS Kids. The channel began live streaming this year through pbskids.org and on the PBS Kids Video app. You also can use the app to watch shows on demand.
It’s all about providing more access to PBS’ educational, commercial-free programming for children. The new channel is key, though, because it puts more children’s programming on an over-the-air channel, which kids who don’t have access to streaming devices can use. (Though last year, PBS launched aPBS Kids tablet that comes with preloaded PBS Kids content).
“The goal is to make it available anytime as much as possible,” said Bill Stotesbery, CEO and general manager of KLRU.
So, how will you find the 18.4 channel? If you don’t have cable, you just switch your TV or your TV box to 18.4. If you do have cable, you’ll have to hunt for the channel. KLRU does not yet know the channel numbers for each provider. What it does know is that U-verse and Directv users won’t get the channel. Those providers don’t program the local networks’ bonus channels.
Some exciting news in the world of PBS Kids: Clifford is coming back to PBS Kids and the new “Sesame Street” episode that debuted on HBO are now on PBS Kids. It’s about a six-month delay from when it appears on HBO to when it comes to KLRU.
Beyond KLRU PBS Kids, Ben Kramer, vice president of education, gives us some other ways to enjoy PBS content, especially for older kids — those who are only watching “Sesame Street” for nostalgia or because a younger sibling is watching it.
PBS Digital Studios is online content that actually starts on the PBS Digital Studios YouTube channel. Shows your kids might love include “Physics Girl,” “BrainCraft,” “It’s … Gross Science!” and Austin-based “It’s Okay to be Smart” with biologist Joe Hanson.
You also can go to PBS Learning Media to look up old shows and search for content by topic. So, if for example, someone in your house has a science report due on black holes, you can find episodes of “Nova,” “Quest” and “Space Time” and “Physics Girl.” It also categorizes shows by ideal audience age, too.
Of course, KLRU and PBS doesn’t want parents only using its programming as a baby-sitter, though there are times when that’s necessary. Four years ago KLRU came up with its guidelines television viewing for families when it launched its klrukids.org site.
The five guidelines are:
1. Know the difference between “smart” screen time and “silly” screen time. Kids understand the difference between programs that engage them and those that are pure entertainment. “Light entertainment is OK, but let’s talk about it,” Kramer says. You want balance and to have a conversation, he says.
2. When the brain slows down, turn the screen off. (This is when your child is staring and drooling; he is neither asleep nor alert.) It’s time to go to the next activity, Kramer says. When he talks to kids about this, they almost always say that they see their parents passively watching, too. He explains to kids that their brains are developing rapidly right now (unlike their parents’ brains) and the time that their brain is checked out is time lost for its development.
3. Talk throughout the day and during screen time. Take a page from the PBS characters who are really curious, smart chatterboxes. Watch shows together and talk about what’s on-screen. Ask a lot of questions back and forth and offer smart solutions to the show’s problems. It’s also a good time to pause the show and go online to research together the show’s subject matter.
4. Watch and play on screens together. PBS designates shows as “Family Choice.” These are shows that are ideal for watching together. Extend this practice to mobile devices and computers as well. Model smart uses of media for kids to see and do it together.
5. Read at home every day. PBS Kids shows typically have books that go with them; if your child loves Clifford, pick up Clifford books at the library and read them together. If your child is interested in volcanoes that he saw on “Nova,” find a great book on volcanoes to further his education.