As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, young people went from seeing their friends, classmates, and teachers on a daily basis to quarantining with their parents and guardians. These changes have been particularly challenging for kids, many of whom relied on the adults in their life to help make sense of the situation. Early on, cable TV networks recognized that families would need help during these unprecedented times and started working to support them. From specials to town halls to virtual events, producers and showrunners put their heads together behind the scenes to provide creative programming and content that keeps kids informed, entertained, and connected. Here are just a handful of programming initiatives that have been underway, and there are even more to come:
CNN has held two virtual town halls in partnership with Sesame Street to educate kids on coronavirus and the state of the world right now. The characters talked with CNN reporters and doctors over Zoom about COVID-19, asked questions, and answered questions from children and their parents who called or wrote in during the special.
HBO’s Sesame Street also held a virtual play date with Elmo and friends over Zoom early in the pandemic, when kids were just getting used to being at home and away from school and their friends.
Cartoon Network launched a new initiative, CNCheckIn, to keep kids entertained and informed while at home using creative PSAs and tutorials. The PSAs show how to properly wash hands, social distance from friends, and do-it-yourself projects and how-to-draw lessons to keep kids doing hands-on activities at home.
Nickelodeon aired a town hall in late March with host Kristen Bell, who interviewed medical experts using a kids-eye view, and which featured a performance by Alicia Keys. The town hall included a Q&A portion and a segment that showed kids from around the world connecting over video conference. The kids shared their experiences with social distancing and the impact the pandemic has had on their lives. #KidsTogether is Nickelodeon's campaign that launched in March to provide resources for parents on how to keep their families healthy and on activities kids can do at home.
ViacomCBS was also the first network to produce an awards show remotely since the onset of the pandemic when Nickelodeon kicked off its Kids First Choice Awards show in early May.
Disney Channel launched their "We're All In This Together" campaign in late March, which consists of interstitial messages featuring some of the network's top talent speaking to children about staying positive during this time. The actors filmed messages of themselves at home and shared ideas on how to keep active and entertained while in lockdown.
MTV has always been proactive when it comes to spreading awareness among its younger audiences. Last month, the network produced 'Prom-athon,' which featured Michelle Obama who kicked off a virtual prom for those high school seniors missing out on their school dance. Prom-athon partnered with the "When We All Vote" nonprofit to encourage 18-year-olds to register to vote and to participate in civic events.
Then there are numerous programmers like Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and HISTORY Channel that have used their subject matter expertise to compile resources for kids, including educational activities, worksheets, and STEM projects to do at home while schools and summer camps are closed.
More campaigns, shows, and initiatives related to COVID-19 are on the horizon as cable TV networks continue to use their large influence to reach children nationwide.