Kids' Entertainment

What is frame rate in kids' shows? A toddler stands watching a TV across the living room.
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Why Are Parents On Social Media Suddenly So Obsessed With “Frame Rate”?

It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

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If you have a toddler and are on the internet much at all lately, you’ve probably seen the discussion of gentle TV shows, with some parents blaming more stimulating cartoons for their children’s temper tantrums. Parents taking part in the conversation frequently describe these programs as “high frame rate” shows, but as it turns out, that’s not the most accurate way to label them.

Maybe you’ve come across parents searching for low stimulation children’s shows online, or seen experts like Professor Emily Oster debunking the idea that Ms. Rachel or CoComelon could cause developmental challenges for kids. Perhaps you remember the “CoComelon causes kids to have tantrums” kerfuffle from recent years, or have seen parents on TikTok worried cartoons are making their kids more aggressive. In any case, it’s likely you’ve come across this discussion in one form or another: parents wondering if flashy, fast-paced shows are having a negative effect on their child’s behavior, and searching for slower options.

Romper spoke with experts about why frame rate isn’t actually what’s to blame if your child’s favorite show becomes overstimulating, and how to pick the best programs for kids of any age.

What is frame rate?

If you’ve seen parents asking for “low frame rate” TV show recommendations for their kids, chances are they’re not actually interested in the frame rate at all. And the creators behind children’s shows and movies all use the same one.

The term frame rate refers to how many images are shown per second in a show to create the motion we see on screen. Kind of like those old flip books full of pictures you’d thumb through quickly to see them “move,” the video we see in kids' TV shows is made up of numerous still images. Frame rate is different from cuts, which are transitions from one shot or scene to the next.

“On the technical side, that’s not something we think about because 24 frames a second is the standard,” says Tammy Langton, director of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. “That’s for Disney movies, that’s for animated shows, that’s for live action shows. It’s a North American standard.” (This means that in a show with a 24 frames per second frame rate, there are 24 stills shown per second on screen.)

Langton noted that she believes 24 frames per second is the global standard as well, though there may be some exceptions. She emphasized that it’s not frame rate, but rather stylistic choices (like the overall pace and how many cuts from scene to scene occur) that can affect how stimulating a show seems.

The pacing of action and the speed we want — how frequent our cuts, how quick our actions, how fast our character is moving — that’s always a consideration when establishing the style of any show. So that is, on this show, very deliberate,” Langton says of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Does TV cause temper tantrums?

Whether parents are looking for slower-paced shows or discussing the negative effects of a so-called high frame rate show, they’re probably all curious about the same thing: their children’s behavior. In these frame rate discussions, parents often share that watching certain shows seems to coincide with a period of more tantrums than usual in their children. But experts say there’s just not enough research available to say that faster-paced kids’ shows can have that sort of effect.

“We don’t know a lot about frame rate or visual effects of screens on child development,” says Dr. Caroline Martinez, pediatrician at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital. “In general, we have seen that excessive screen exposure in children has been linked to cognitive and social emotional deficits. There are no studies showing adverse effects that are specifically related to visual characteristics of children’s shows, such as rapidly flashing lights, repetitive patterns, or certain colors.”

Child psychologists also hesitate to blame tantrums on much of anything, saying they’re developmentally normal. “Temper tantrums are part of growing up. I want to know more about the context of the temper tantrums,” says Daniel Marullo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Children’s of Alabama. “Is it that the parent is turning off the TV and now they’re having a meltdown, or is it something else that’s going on?”

Marullo says there is also a possibility that some children are more easily overstimulated by screens than others. For example, TikTok creator @thecircusbrain has multiple videos breaking down reasons CoComelon might be overstimulating. He points out the constant cuts to new scenes, and how the camera seems to always be zooming in and out or panning around.

“Can a child become overstimulated by sights and sounds? Definitely. You can see that in any child who goes into a busy shopping mall, right? There’s all this stuff going on. There’s lights and noise and people and all that,” says Marullo. “So, not knowing anything else about CoComelon or the other high intensity kind of shows, I can see where a child, particularly a younger child, may have difficulty coping with all that kind of stimulation. I can see where, if it’s a very overstimulating kind of a program, that it could lead to a child having some difficulty.”

What shows are best for toddlers?

If you think your little one might be getting overstimulated by what’s on the screen, how can you find something new to watch that won’t do the same?

“I feel like one show is not necessarily better than another show, and that’s for the viewer to decide. That’s a personal choice. But I think it is helpful to think about the content of what children are exposed to. Instead of getting focused on frame rate, might it be better to think about the pacing of the show and the decision-making that’s going into how the show is presented on screen,” says Chris Loggins, supervising producer for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

“It’s not always doom and gloom with media and small children,” says Marullo. “The research shows that for infants and toddlers before the age of 2, there’s not much benefit to any kind of media. After that, there can be some benefit from some really high-quality, educational type shows that help with language development. In general, it’s more parent or adult involvement with the child, watching with the child, and doing things that's the most effective.”

“The best TV shows for early childhood are those that are well-designed, age-appropriate and educational,” adds Martinez. “In early childhood, content that has a story, and a prosocial message that teaches kindness and respect, tends to have the most beneficial impacts.”

To find a quality show for your child, Marullo and Martinez recommend:

  • Checking the content of the show to make sure it’s age appropriate (for toddlers, you want no violence).
  • Interacting with your child while they watch a show or movie. Sing the songs, do the dances, and talk about the characters.
  • Researching who produces it. Is it a university or educational institution, or an unknown creator on the internet? Do the show’s creators work with pediatricians, educators, or child psychologists during its development?

For example, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is created by Fred Rogers Productions, which has a long history of making educational programs for young kids. They even include children in the script-writing process, making sure each line makes sense to them, Loggins says. Bluey, for example, has won an Emmy award for “Best Preschool TV Show.” The show’s producers try to focus each episode on play, which is how children process the world around them, and tie in real-life experiences kids love, like going to the dump or the home improvement store.

So, if you notice your child is getting overstimulated by their screen time, you could be on to something. Instead of searching for different shows they’d enjoy based on frame rate, try searching for gentle kids’ shows, or low-stimulation children’s movies.

Studies referenced:

Hill, D., Ameenuddin, N., Reid Chassiakos, Y. (L., Cross, C., Hutchinson, J., Levine, A., Boyd, R., Mendelson, R., Moreno, M., & Swanson, W. S. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5).

Sources interviewed:

Chris Loggins, supervising producer for ’Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’

Tammy Langton, director of ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’


Daniel Marullo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Children’s of Alabama

Dr. Caroline Martinez, pediatrician at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital

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