Watching Sesame Street improves school performance, say researchers

Researchers have some good news for parents who worry about their children watching too much television.

One programme in particular could actually help them do better at school, according to scientists.

A new study published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics found that Sesame Street improves school performance in children who are able to watch it before the age of seven.

The researchers used 20 years’ worth of U.S. census data (from 1980, 1990 and 2000) to compare how children with and without access to the series did in education and employment.

They found that being exposed to the classic series before the age of seven seemed to lead to long-term benefits, both at school and in the workforce. The effects were especially strong for boys, but girls benefited too.

Children who were able to watch the series did better at school and were more likely to be employed as adults. They even earned higher wages! The results suggest that the programme had a ‘sizeable’ impact, according to the researchers.

Sesame Street launched in November 1969, with the aim of improving education for disadvantaged children. At the height of its popularity, the show reached 95 per cent of pre-school children in the USA. Sesame Street first aired in the UK in 1971. It is now screened on Cartoonito, the sister channel to Cartoon Network UK.

This week, the Sesame Street social media team inadvertently caused a Twitter storm when they asked users which Sesame Street character they’d pick to take to a desert island with them, prompting some serious debate.

‘I had a hard time choosing between Elmo and Grover….but I’d have to go with Grover,’ said one. ‘The guy has a lot of jobs over the past 50 years so he has a lot of expertise on how to survive on a deserted island.’

‘I’d choose Oscar because he seems like a good forager,’ another mused.

‘Cookie Monster cause he could hunt for Coookkkies!!!’ declared another (come on, we were all thinking it).

Whichever felt friend you’d pick to be your desert island buddy, at least you can be sure of one thing: next time you need a little ‘me’ time, you needn’t feel guilty about turning on the TV.