2021 Trend: Safe and Sound

With the pandemic resetting rulebooks and routines, parents and broadcasters alike are investing in podcasts designed for young minds.

In 2021, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced it would use part of its Ready To Learn Grant from the US Department of Education to develop a podcast accelerator program. The audience is four- to eight-year-olds. It will be the first time podcasts have been included in the long-running scheme.

The move cements the changing view of podcasts, from obscure medium to cultural mainstay. The latest data from Edison Research reveals that 37% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast in the last month.

Children’s podcasts have a long history of providing information, escapism and entertainment. But in 2020, the need for age-appropriate and on-demand content shifted up a gear, as schools and childcare facilities shut their doors. Many parents turned to podcasts to keep children learning and in routine.

Podcasters themselves also describe a recent shift. When kids-focused audio platform Pinna launched in 2018, average daily usage among its under-12s audience was 21 minutes; this jumped to 64 minutes per day in 2020.

And with research from Morning Consult indicating that almost one third of all parents would now consider buying a podcast subscription service for their child, the trend looks set to outlast the pandemic.

As the whole family’s device usage increases, so does pressure on big tech companies to step up safeguarding efforts to protect society’s youngest, Generation Alpha. Audio-first content appeals to many parents’ sense of safety because it can be played on screen-free devices, and without the use of cameras or microphones.

In 2021, Apple Podcasts launched a ‘Kids & Families’ section, collaborating with Common Sense Media, a nonprofit specializing in tech advice and entertainment reviews for families with children. Spotlighting content from Apple’s existing library, the list will make it easier than ever for families to filter and find content for children of any age.

By satisfying demand for age-appropriate content for children, podcasts for children are proving to be a safe and sound investment. But this is also leading to innovation in connected sectors.

As Wunderman Thompson Intelligence highlighted in its “Protecting Gen Alpha” briefing, the market has also grown for screen-free speakers. Devices from Yoto, Toniebox and Jooki allow families with younger children to download podcasts from ever-expanding libraries. Despite relatively high retail prices, their increasing popularity indicates that many parents will pay a premium for safety.

We could also see an increase in families creating content together. Content creator Zeth Cobb’s “Podcast with a Toddler” series, co-hosted with his young daughter Saylor, playfully stretches the conventions of podcasting by cutting their interview-style conversations into short videos.

While not strictly aimed at children, Zeth and Saylor’s entertaining posts have amassed millions of views on TikTok. Cobb has said that he hopes to continue creating the series with Saylor, though only one condition: “as long as she has fun doing it.”

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Hero image courtesy of PRX, PBS KIDS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

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Irish writer in London. Currently run events at Sotheby's, formerly V&A. Founder of Predictedit, a newsletter bringing together trends, research and ideas.

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Karl Finn

Karl Finn

Irish writer in London. Currently run events at Sotheby's, formerly V&A. Founder of Predictedit, a newsletter bringing together trends, research and ideas.

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