Parents have discovered that the easiest way to pacify a toddler is to shove screens in front of their faces. Shows like Cocomelon, ChuChu TV, and Peppa Pig quickly became top digital babysitters. They do their job well but at what cost? Recently, an Instagram story thread by child development instructor Jerrica Sannes is making parents reevaluate their kids’ streaming habits. If you haven’t guessed already, constant and prolonged exposure to kid shows on social media can actually damage your child’s development. How?
Cocomelon is addicting and that’s a huge problem
If you think addiction only happens to adults (can you last an hour without looking at your phone?) — think again. Even kids, who have no idea yet of what “addiction” means, can get dependent and obsessed with certain things.
Cocomelon is a series of 3D animated videos on YouTube and Netflix that feature back-to-back nursery songs. Just how popular is it? Back in December 2020, it became the third YouTube channel to gain 100 million subscribers. On Netflix, Cocomelon ranked Top 1 most-watched for 2020, ahead of shows like The Office and Queen’s Gambit.
“Cocomelon is hyper-stimulating that it actually acts like a drug, a stimulant,” began Sannes in her Instagram stories thread. You might be thinking that comparing cute and bright Cocomelon to drugs is a bit of a reach, but Sannes’ reasoning is backed by her observations as a child development instructor.
She reasons that just like actual drugs on adults, kids will experience addiction and withdrawal from Cocomelon’s brand of visual social media drug. Want to prove it? Just try prying a kid away from their screen while they’re watching the show. You’re lucky if they won’t throw a fit.
Don’t be fooled, shows like these were made to earn
Sannes goes on to say that her likening Cocomelon to drugs is not an exaggeration. She insists that shows like these intended for kids are not as innocent as they seem.
“Do you think they don’t know how much freaking money they can make if they can ‘drug’ your toddler enough to form an actual addiction?” she questions. “An addiction that will inevitably lead to millions and millions of views on YouTube and a spot on Netflix top 10 for God knows how long now.”
At its core, Cocomelon was made to rake in money, and what a fierce money maker it is. The most popular Cocomelon video currently has 4 billion views on YouTube. The entire channel currently has a whopping 101 billion views and counting. They’ve discovered the formula to hook kids and parents in and they’re earning all the cash. It’s all for profit, and that’s a hard pill to swallow for some.
“Our children are the guinea pigs”
How do you know if your kid is addicted to something on social media? Sannes asks everyone with kids to look for warning signs or “anecdotal evidence” that prove the show is affecting them. For example, if your kid has a tantrum when you cut off their screen time or if they aren’t watching it, that’s a red flag for addiction. She also says that “if your child turns into a zombie while watching,” you should consider that as overstimulation.
Sannes further claims that kids these days are the subjects of a long-term experiment. Never has there been a generation so immersed in the digital world than today. If Millennials grew up learning to keep up with the tech, Gen Z and Gen Alpha were born with it. It’s part of their world. And we’ve yet to see the side effects of these shows in their lives.
“We won’t really know how these types of shows rewire our children’s brains and ultimately determine their future until they’re adults,” says Sannes.
The anatomy of a Cocomelon video
Have you ever tried watching a Cocomelon video? It looks pretty harmless, with plenty of educational songs that do engage kids in some way. But if you’ve noticed, Cocomelon bombards your senses with all sorts of elements.
The “camera” never stays still (I got quite dizzy after watching just one video), the characters are singing while there is a mixture of sound effects in the background, including kids’ laughter. The entire video is bright and colorful, just enough to attract a toddler’s attention. The text for lyrics is too fast for any toddler to try reading, let alone sing along to. There’s a lot going on all at the same time. It’s overstimulation that their young brains can’t process fast enough.
“This show is literally baby cocaine”
“These people don’t give a sh*t about our children,” Sannes continues. “They care about money. That’s it. Your child’s cognitive development in direct exchange for their wealth.”
Sannes strikes fear in the hearts of parents with her Instagram stories — and rightfully so. We might live in the digital age but that doesn’t mean everything digital is good for us. She reiterates that by letting kids get addicted to shows like Cocomelon, they might grow up with “poor self-regulation skills, attention and behavioral disorders that will mimic ADHD and autism.”
What else could be the side effects of Cocomelon addiction for your kids?
Child psychologist Renu Goyal reiterates the bad effects of exposing your kids to hours of shows like Cocomelon. In her interview with Tweak India, she says that the more a child is dependent on videos like that, the more they get aggressive. The bright colors can distract them from learning anything educational too. What’s even scarier is that she says kids can “find it difficult to differentiate between the world they see onscreen and the world they live in.”
So is Cocomelon all bad?
Cocomelon isn’t the devil incarnate, don’t get us wrong. The show does help build kids’ vocabulary, teach them about important life skills like brushing their teeth, and sparks their imagination. It’s on a platform that’s free for everyone so it’s easy to access.
Plus, your kids will mimic the characters they see. “When children see these videos, especially the ones where the characters are dancing, they try to emulate them. This helps improve their motor coordination and brain development,” says Goyal.
The multi-sensory experience Cocomelon provides your kids does have its benefits but, like everything in life, it’s important to take it in moderation.
Monitor your child’s gadget usage, or better yet, don’t make them use gadgets
It should go without saying that your kids shouldn’t grow up attached to a gadget. Although it’s unavoidable at times, you shouldn’t shove a screen in front of a one-year-old as a quick fix to make them stop crying. You may think this helps them, but you might be doing more harm than good. If taking a child’s gadget away results in a tantrum, that’s a sign of addiction.
But it’s not too late to turn things around. Parents can teach kids how to regulate their emotions in a healthy way, as well as instill discipline and self-sufficiency. Limit their screen time, take them outdoors, engage them in physical play — anything but relying on a neverending stream of videos.