Can Our Kids Learn Anything From Netflix?


Raising one kid is challenging. Raising two, well it doubles the fun. We have two boys who are six and three. But the three years between them can be much closer or much further depending on the situation. Sometimes our youngest acts older to move towards his brother, sometimes our oldest reverts because he sees what can be gotten acting more toddler like. It’s a giant learning experience for us all.

So how does a very present aspect of our household (TV/Netflix) actually become a learning tool for the boys when they are at two very different ages? What conversations are sparked? Can they enjoy different shows as well as find common ground?

That was the question put forth for the #streamteam crew this month.

What conversations have been sparked or started because of Netflix, whether it be the shows on the screen or the actual act of watching?

I have touched on when and how often our boys watch Netflix before. They don’t watch a lot, but they do understand that power of Netflix and how they need to act to earn such treats. I even enjoy listening to Charlie say Netflix.

Due to the age of our boys, there are no in-depth topics (yet) and I am in no hurry for those to happen. We are not talking about drugs, sex, eating disorders or other serious topics.

We tend to live more in the fantasy land of puppy dogs driving trucks to save the day. We tend to talk about how Pokemon characters could defeat other characters with special powers. Yes, pretty deep stuff.

Sometimes we even get to consider how many Minions it would take to eat all of the bananas in the world. Can you see why I am happy to stay at this level of conversation. Yep, pretty easy and harmless.

The topics of the shows are not sinking in with our kids and that is not surprising. They are not old enough yet. They also gravitate to cartoons that almost have no dialogue. Hello Angry Birds.

So what are our kids learning from Netflix in terms of it being a part of their lives? Well they learn simply from watching it with each other and with us. Conversation of any kind is great and watching shows together can do that pretty well. Although, trying to talk to the boys while a show is on has to be limited to yes or no questions.

Do you want to tell me how school was today? No.

What is learned from Netflix and getting to choose a show to watch is how to share.

How To Share

Centuries ago when my sister and I wanted to watch TV, we did not have millions of options at our fingertips. You had a best 10 choices and that was being modest. In our house, we alternated days of who got to pick their show. Yes a whole day.

Now in our house, the boys take turns alternating one show and then a third they must decide on together. Generally it is a combo of Paw Patrol, Pokemon and the shared show is Angry Birds. This will branch out eventually I hope. The point is, they no longer fight over what show is being watched. They are content with the sharing system we have going. That same system has spread to story time, cereal time, dessert time and all other times really.

The Digital Space is Ad Free

One area I want to touch on that the kids are not learning from Netflix – advertising. Well at least direct commercials. Trust me, I know the cartoons they watch are basically marketing for 23 minutes. But they don’t get the blitz of commercials I am used to seeing. They don’t know what the hot toy is or what new cool truck is rolling off the lot. It’s kind of nice. I also like that three shows is an hour and not 9o minutes. Less screen time than traditional TV.

Having Fun

Learning is supposed to be fun right? That is where our two get the most out of Netflix and the shows they watch. Pokemon the cartoon has expanded to trading cards and games and books. Harry plays Pokemon like a Vegas card dealer and reads like a pro when it comes to special battle skills. The same can be said for Charlie. I swear he is going to know how to read before he is four because of Pokemon cards. It’s not a reality-based topic, but they are learning many transferable skills as they say.

The cartoons open up a world of imaginative play with their friends and each other. Every time Paw Patrol comes on they both say who they are. I’m Marshall. I’m Chase. They also train their brain on what is real and what is not. They both know dogs don’t drive police cars but it sure is fun to see.

As an adult, TV shows can spark conversation and debate. It’s great dinner time chat. I look forward to the days of doing that with the boys about much bigger topics that will play out in their lives.

But for now, I am quite happy to have cereal and talk about which Angry Bird is in fact the angriest.

Until next month.