The way we watch television has changed completely over the last decade, thanks to the plethora of on-demand viewing options; streaming services offered by companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon; and the fact that many of us watch more and more "TV" on our laptops, tablets, and even smartphones (often gloriously commercial-free). Perhaps no one knows the joy of turning on the perfect show at the perfect time better than parents. More and more of them have been dumping their cable subscriptions in favor of less traditional viewing options, and this trend hasn't gone unnoticed — now a new "interactive" network is being created in an attempt to lure them back, with promises of letting moms and dads tailor programming to their own kids' needs.
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In the next few months, My Nick Jr., a joint venture between Viacom and Verizon, will premiere on FiOS TV (with plans to roll out to other paid cable providers at some point in the future). The channel, which is targeting 2- to 5-year-olds, will let parents choose categories like "count it up" (math), "worldwide” (geography), and "word play" (vocabulary), and then episodes from the extensive Nick Jr. catalog will play personalized content without advertisements.
While it has yet to be tested on the target demographic, My Nick Jr. is based on a product that's found success in France. Whether or not that will translate to the U.S. market remains to be seen, but besides the beret-wearing, how different can American and French kids be, really?
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Despite the control the network gives parents, many experts say no TV at all is probably best for very young children, and recently the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media suggested limiting kids' screen time to one or two hours per day. “If you’re a parent with young children, you have to take a break from them, and kids in the past could watch a DVD," child psychiatrist Michael Brody, chair of the Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, tells Yahoo Shine. "But now it’s used as a form of social control. It’s 24/7, it’s on all the time, kids are buried."
According to the Wall Street Journal, parents will be able to set limits on how many hours of the channel their children can watch in one setting. They'll also get to access reports about the specific shows their kids have been viewing. And this might just be the coolest part: The network learns the user’s preferences — after an episode a green Yes button with a smiley face or a red button with a frown face appears as a rating system — and can eventually predict the exact “Dora the Explorer” or “Umizoomi” episode your kids are in the mood for.
Isn't technology great? Next up: a machine that can predict whether or not your 5-year-old will throw a tantrum if you hide a little broccoli in that mac and cheese at dinner later. Well, one can hope, anyway.
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