Researchers in mass media and autism education have found that TV shows such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood can help kids develop social skills.
Two studies released by Texas Tech University researchers revealed that watching the PBS KIDS show can help young children learn important social and emotional skills.
Eric Rasmussen, an assistant professor of public relations, and his co-authors from the College of Media & Communication and College of Human Sciences found that kids who watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood demonstrated greater empathy, recognised emotions better and felt more confident in social interactions compared to children who didn’t watch the show.
"It’s not enough to just plop your kid in front of the TV and hope they’re going to develop these social and emotional skills,” said Rasmussen.
“There has to be a certain level of parental involvement in kids’ TV viewing experiences.”
Rasmussen and his team also partnered with Wesley Dotson, co-director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research, to discover how useful the series was in teaching young children with autism.
In the study, two five-year-old boys were tested on a skill such as trying new foods, and were found to pick it up quickly after watching an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Dotson added: “That was really the moment when my jaw dropped and I said ‘Wow. We’ve got something here’.
“I don’t know what it is yet, but there’s something here to understand, because kids with autism who are food selective don’t just walk in one day and try everything that’s put in front of them.
“Realistically, I don’t believe for a second that you can plop a kid with autism down in front of a TV show and that be the primary means of instruction.
“But it can be really hard to find things that engage a child with autism, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood does seem to engage kids with autism to a high degree.”