Although themes of kindness and caring for others have always permeated children’s television, especially preschool content, the kids entertainment business is seeing a marked increase in empathy-inspired shows and offline initiatives. This is particularly the case in the US, where the socio-economic climate remains fragile under a controversial Trump White House.
As the President's bullying behavior, immigration plans and proposed border wall for Mexico continue to dominate the news, content creators are working extra diligently to ensure Generation Z is more empathetic, tolerant and happy. The under-12 cohort, in fact, is already on its way to becoming a more inclusive, unselfish and socially aware group, contrary to the common assumption that “generation selfie” is self-absorbed and introverted.
According to Story of Me 2, Nickelodeon’s new US consumer insights report, 93% of kids say they would like to have a friend from a different group, and 81% would like to have a friend with a different religious affiliation. Gen Z also believes in the importance of social causes and doing good for others.
For Nina Hahn, Senior Vice President (SVP) of International Production & Development at Nickelodeon, empathy has always been a cornerstone of the network’s content creation process, no matter the genre or demographic.
“It’s not only in front of the camera, but also with respect to how we work on our research proposals, and how we work with our on-air initiatives,” says Hahn. “Once our research insights are rolled out for the content-makers inside the company, we then take the messaging and bake it into the development process from the start of every project we work on. How we create characters, in this case, that empathize, are relevant and depict a world that is meaningful to a kid at home in such a way that is welcoming to them, are things we put front and center.”
Hahn points to Nickelodeon's newly launched animated preschool series Nella the Princess Knight as a shining example of a series that exemplifies core initiatives of friendship, positivity and courage. Already on air in the US and rolling out globally this spring, the female-led series created by Christine Ricci (curriculum consultant on Blaze and the Monster Machines) follows the adventures of an unconventional eight-year-old heroine, and empowers preschoolers to be brave. “Nella the Princess Knight is about empathizing with the people and situations around you in order to put wrong right,” notes Hahn.
Interestingly, not long after the series’ premiere, new preschool research from Viacom Insights revealed that preschoolers are becoming increasingly self-sufficient, largely due to a slight movement away from helicopter parenting to an ideology wherein parents prepare preschoolers for life in an uncertain world.
Entitled Little Big Kids: Preschoolers Ready For Life, the study surveyed 6,500 families of preschoolers ages two to five across 12 countries, and found that 75% of parents believe children should learn through their own experiences.
The industry’s uptick in empathetic programming is also timely given that some of kids’ biggest worries today, according to Story of Me 2, are school, their parents’ safety, bullying, appearance and cyber popularity. School safety is also a common concern, indicating how much kids are aware of current safety issues in the world. Additionally, the study shows that preschoolers are becoming more independent as a result of an increase in learning through mobile devices and technology. This type of scenario is now helping developers, like New York’s Tinybop, find opportunities in social emotional kids apps.
You can read Kidscreen's full article about how content that helps kids develop socio-emotional skills has never been more important, and how producers are working diligently to keep the momentum going, here on Kidscreen.com.
More Nick: Nina Hahn Discusses Nickelodeon's "Nella The Princess Knight"!
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