Kids' shows cast a spell on thousands of adult viewers


“My friends laugh at me when I tell them I’m now hooked to kids’ shows.”

Amit Shah, a nutritionist from Mumbai, did not see this coming.

When the Covid-19 outbreak put a stop to his extensive work travel last year, Shah got to spend some quality time with his 11-year-old daughter for the first time. “But that also meant she was always around, even when we were watching TV. She had just started exploring Netflix and we wanted to curate the right content for her age.”

Shah did not want trailers of shows meant for adults to pop up on her feed during their TV-watching time together. “So, instead of having separate TV times, I decided to use her Netflix kids’ profile and started watching shows with her.”

However, a year hence, it’s their routine to watch ‘Mako Mermaids’, an Australian series about three mermaids, before going to bed.

The pandemic has inadvertently made many adults rediscover and actively consume kids’ content like animation shows, rhymes and games. About 60% of Netflix’s members around the world chose to watch kids and family content every month last year, a spokesperson for the video-streaming site told USA Today in March.

Amit ShahETtech

(Illustration: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

Viewing of kids’ titles on the OTT platform in India increased more than 100% across user profiles in 2020 over 2019, Netflix said in a blog post in December. Gaming platform Roblox, made for kids and teens, recorded 14% users above 25 last year, which included parents and grandparents.

Put it down to increased exposure, as adults ended up spending more time with kids in the immediate or extended family courtesy of work-from-home during this period.

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“I have to force myself to think of the artists I like as I catch myself unwittingly typing ‘Baa baa black sheep’ (nursery rhyme) on Spotify,” says Anulipi Ghosh, brand manager at an FMCG company who has been consuming a lot of her 3.5-year-old’s rhymes as background score while working from home.

“It’s a bit like losing your identity,” Ghosh says.

Quite a few adults are enjoying it though.

“We have a lot of seriousness around us. This gets you out of that space for a while,” says Mangala R, 38, a communications professional from Gurugram.

Mangala never actually had the time before the onset of the pandemic to enjoy watching what her two kids loved on TV. “Now, my elder son sometimes reminds me this is not for me, and I wonder, why is it deemed that this content is not for adults?”

Mangala’s former neighbour, Sneha Trivedi, is listening to Cocomelon’s nursery rhymes channel on YouTube now, all thanks to osmosis.

“During the lockdown, Mangala frequently visited us, especially when I was alone for a period,” says Trivedi. “Her son would play these rhymes on TV while we chatted. Then one night I dreamt that I was in one of these rhymes.”

Cocomelon songs show up in Trivedi’s YouTube watch history quite often now. “It’s so different from the world you are exposed to, and so calming,” she says.

Stress Buster


Many adults also find the kids content a stress buster.

“It allows them a distraction in these trying times as the world in those shows doesn’t represent any of their present concerns,” says Anshuma Kshetrapal, a creative arts psychotherapist. “It also reinvigorates neural pathways that are childlike, allowing them to be more playful and creative in some cases.”

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Karn Singh, 31, an advertising copywriter, attests to the fact that watching kids content has helped his creative juices flowing and may have altered his content consumption habits for good.

“These kids’ shows are all about the world as it is not,” and he finds comfort in that.

Anshuma KshetrapalETtech

(Illustration: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

Singh, who lives in Delhi, was exposed to songs from The Wiggles, a children’s music group, through his nephew who visited him for a few weeks before the first lockdown in March 2020. “I would watch these songs with him and soon enough, it became our language.”

“After my nephew left, I binge-watched a lot of usual content. I think it paved the way for me to watch kids shows because I was done with the hyper-reality of the shows meant for us.”

Heavily into Japanese animation movies for kids now, Singh is also watching Akbar-Birbal, an Indian children’s classic, these days.

Just because kids’ shows put their minds at ease doesn’t imply it is all mindless content.

Kids’ shows are quite meaningful these days, notes Momena Sagheer, 23, who regularly watches ‘Doraemon’, an anime based on a Japanese manga series, with her younger brother. “Even as they deal with diverse themes from health to morality, there’s a comedy factor in all of them,” she adds.

That gives adults an opportunity to laugh, says Maulik Khimani, a Mumbai-based HR professional. “Work from home has been so stressful for so many of us. We have forgotten to laugh. We only smile these days,” says Khimani.

Watching cartoons with his seven-year-old son allows him to laugh often.

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Nupur ChaturvediETtech

(Illustration: Rahul Awasthi/ETtech)

Nupur Chaturvedi finds herself watching shows—like ‘Waffles + Mochi’, former US First Lady Michelle Obama’s puppet series, and ‘Peppa Pig’, a British animated series—even after her daughter is asleep.

“While she enjoys it, she may not understand how good this content is for her. But my adult brain is able to appreciate its progressive quotient,” says the communications professional from Gurugram.

Kshetrapal recommends this practice so long as adults use it to disengage from their present concerns but not leave them altogether. “It’s like dressing up in a costume of your favourite character. If someone starts living in that costume, then it’s a problem of addiction.”

However, in her practice, the psychotherapist has seen some people use the imagery from these shows to explain an element of their psyche they were not consciously aware of. “The ability to play with and inculcate this imagery is a sign of a healthy mind,” she adds.

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Meanwhile, Shah from Mumbai has gotten closer to his daughter through this exercise even when he’s back to his travelling life now. “The other day I was in Bengaluru and we discussed on the phone which episode of ‘Mako Mermaids’ she was watching. I watched it alone in the hotel room just so we could watch the next episode together when I’m back.”



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