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  • Those Who Grew Up Watching Sesame Street Have Higher Salaries. Accurate?

    The study found a positive link between exposure to the beloved children’s show and better performance in school and even in the workplace.
    by Kate Borbon .
Those Who Grew Up Watching Sesame Street Have Higher Salaries. Accurate?
PHOTO BY Pixabay
  • Children these days are exposed to plenty of fun, educational TV programs, but one show that has stood the test of time is Sesame Street. The beloved show had premiered in late 1969 and instantly experienced much popularity among children. Almost 50 years later, the program seems to show no signs of slowing down.

    The format of Sesame Street episodes features a combination of skits, animations, live actors, and its famous cast of puppet characters called the Muppets, which include Elmo, Big Bird, Ernie, and the Cookie Monster.

    The program, which uses live-action footage, musical numbers, and cartoons, teaches children different topics like the alphabet, numbers, as well as various cultures and current events. And now a study has found that exposure to Sesame Street can be linked to improved school performance and even to employment as an adult.

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    How watching Sesame Street can help kids in school

    The study, which was published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, looked if there was a link between a child’s exposure to Sesame Street before the age of 7 and his performance in school and in the workforce later on. Researchers Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine gathered data from the U.S. Census from years 1980, 1990, and 2000, and assessed kids who lived in areas in the country that had access to TV broadcasts of Sesame Street.


    The researchers focused on three factors: the proportion of children who were enrolled in the grade level appropriate to their age; whether they eventually attended, dropped out of, or graduated from college; and their employment, hourly wage, and poverty status as adults.

    The study found that children who had access to the show performed better in elementary school and were more likely to be enrolled in the grade level appropriate to their age than those who had not been exposed to the show. Similarly, those who had been exposed to Sesame Street were found to be more likely to be employed and to receive higher salaries.

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    What the study’s findings of Sesame Street mean

    The results of the study prove just what a positive impact Sesame Street makes on kids. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the show will agree that not only is it a genuinely entertaining program both for children and for adults, but it also helps familiarize kids on academic subjects like math and literacy in ways that are not intimidating, as Scary Mommy writes.

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    Since its premiere in late 1969, its primary goal has always been “to help preschool kids, especially children from low-income backgrounds, learn the skills they would need to keep up in school,” according to Quartz. The findings of Kearney and Levine’s study help further cement the benefits that young viewers reap from watching the program.

    Aside from these, another article from CNN also discussed another admirable way that Sesame Street helps children: by educating them on how to cope with stressful and even traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect, domestic violence, mental illness, divorce, and even parental incarceration.

    In cooperation with Sesame Street in Communities, the non-profit organization Sesame Workshop, which produces several educational programs aside from Sesame Street, also releases videos that focus on providing children, parents, caregivers, and educators with knowledge and resource to help kids figure out how to deal with traumatic experiences.

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    Even educational programs can’t replace school and real-life interaction


    Despite the great findings of the study, the researchers also emphasized that simply letting kids watch Sesame Street will not guarantee that they will excel in school, or that they will get high-paying jobs in the future, nor that it should be seen as an adequate replacement for school.

    “[W]e do not believe that ‘Sesame Street’ should substitute for preschool or other enriching activities,” Kearney and Levine write in an article for The New Republic. Instead, they believe that the most important lesson that parents, caregivers, and educators can glean from the results of the study is that “TV— an inexpensive and readily accessible tool — can be used as a powerful and positive force to improve educational outcomes.”

    There really is no denying that technology can help kids in numerous ways. For one, exposing children to high-quality media content, particularly educational shows like Sesame Street, can help improve their skills in learning the alphabet and how to count. They can also learn good social behavior like how to treat their peers with respect and kindness.

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    That being said, parents are still encouraged to limit their children’s use of media as much as possible, so that it doesn’t take the place of physical activity and interaction, which are critical to learning, said the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In the end, even high-quality programs like Sesame Street cannot replace the value of face-to-face interaction and active play as well as going to school.

    If parents decide to let their children be exposed to media and technology, they are encouraged to be very careful and wise in how to do it, to make sure that these resources are only used as supplements to help their kids develop healthily instead of impacting them negatively.

    “The findings of our study raise the possibility that TV and electronic media more generally can be leveraged for real social good,” say Kearney and Levine. “Early childhood is too important of a time not to use all tools at our disposal—and that means that ‘Sesame Street’ should be used in addition to, not instead of, preschool.”

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