Some Think 'CoComelon' is Too Stimulating for Their Kids. We Asked an Expert To Weigh In
Screen time is always a touchy subject. Some parents have stringent rules about whether or not they allow their children to use screens—and there are time limits if they do. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against screen time for children under 18 months, except for video chatting and an hour max of high-quality programming for children two and older.
But other parents are a little more lenient and may say, "I watched TV as a kid and turned out fine."
But digging deeper, does the pacing of shows matter? There are slow-paced shows like Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which you may have watched as a young child on your way to turning out fine, and the more modern Daniel Tiger. And then there's…CoComelon. The show that will have nursery rhyme-style jams about manners and bathtime stuck in your head for days. But kids are obsessed, and you love seeing your child happy. You may also need a break, and screen time lets that happen.
The problem? Some people think children may love CoComelon a bit too much. A recent TikTok video from user @circusbrain compared the show's pace to other popular programs like My Little Pony. In the examples from My Little Pony, the scenes change every four to six seconds. Cocomelon's changed every one to three seconds.
It's unclear what the user's credentials are, though he has "psych" and "Ed," in his bio, which typically stands for psychology or psychiatry and education. Regardless, one parent saw the clip, and, cue the guilt. The person took to Reddit to dig for more info.
"I recently saw a TikTok about how CoComelon is overstimulating for babies and is like 'crack' for them," wrote u/First_Regret9418 in the Parenting subreddit. "They say it's because of how fast the scenes change. Does anyone have any more info on this?"
More than 300 Redditors chimed in. They didn't have any peer-reviewed studies, but they had a ton of anecdotes about ways fast-paced programs affected their kids.
'The most epic meltdown we had was while shutting off the show to get her ready for her bath. It was on another level. I said right there and then that the show is banned in the house," wrote the top commenter.
"I had to ban Paw Patrol for this reason. Turning it off would create some seriously genuine heartbreak and terror, even if I warned it was coming, set a timer, etc. It was seriously like he was addicted," said another.
But others haven't noticed changes.
"My toddler doesn't zonk out to that stuff. It sometimes plays in the background while he plays or draws," one person said.
The research is mixed. In 2011, researchers found that watching nine minutes of fast-paced programming could impair a child's executive function. But in 2015, the same researcher, Angeline Lillard, a developmental psychologist at the University of Virginia, conducted another study. This time, the team concluded it was the "fantastical content," not pacing, of shows that was an issue. In both studies, the effects were short-term.
And a pediatrician, who goes by @pedsdoctalk on TikTok, posted a video stating she doesn't think CoComelon is harmful in moderation.
So, which is it?
Clearly, it's unclear.
"Without empirical research on the show CoComelon, there is no data to substantiate claims that this show is overstimulating due to the pace of the scenes," says Rebecca G. Cowan, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, BC-TMH, DCMHS, a professor in the college of social and behavioral sciences at Walden University
Dr. Cowan believes the key, like many aspects of parenting, is to monitor and know your child.
"Not every child will respond to shows such as CoComelon in the same way," she says, adding that there is no "magical age" when a child can graduate to faster-paced programming. "Pay attention to how your child is responding, and if they appear overstimulated or distressed, intervene if you feel it is necessary."
Dr. Cowan says signs the child is overstimulated include crying, anger, and appearing tired or cranky.
If your child is overstimulated and upset when the show is over or screen time is up, parents can help them navigate the issue by:
- Remaining calm and patient. Dr. Cowan says parents should act as a calming force. "Your child will pick up on your emotions, and if you are distressed, they will be too," she says.
- Set the scene. Dr. Cowan suggests moving to a quiet environment with your child, such as a bedroom or backyard fort. "Engage in calming activities, such as listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or taking a nature walk," she says.
- Let big feelings happen. You may think flipping off CoComelon is no big deal, but it may be to your child. "Validate your child's feelings and let them know that you acknowledge that they are feeling upset or out of control," Dr. Cowan advises.
- Teach coping strategies. Dr. Cowan says techniques such as five-finger breathing, in which a child takes five deep breaths and counts each one using their fingers, can help a child learn to self-soothe.
At the end of the day, regardless of what TikTok or Reddit says, parents are the experts on their children. They know their preferences and the red flags that something is about to go awry.
"Remember, you know your child best," Dr. Cowan says.