Many parents perceive the ideal as their young child not watching TV. But those parents could also agree that, at certain moments, it’s not that bad to plop a kiddo down with a show while trying to get dinner ready or paying bills. That is even more likely if the show is specifically made with children in mind, like Cocomelon. With its catchy nursery rhymes and original tunes, as well as bright cartoon characters, Cocomelon seems like a great way to capture kids’ attention.
But what if shows like Cocomelon are actually quite harmful for children? Anecdotal conversations between parents concerning the negative impact of Cocomelon on their children have been circulating on social media — and neurodivergent children seem to be getting hit the hardest. One mom shared that her young son, a Cocomelon viewer, tried to run away from home while hundreds of Redditors share parenting horror stories of trying to turn off Cocomelon. Many moms share that they become worried about Cocomelon after seeing other moms on TikTok sharing how harmful they thought the program was for their kids.
So, what’s the scoop on Cocomelon? Should you steer your child away?
First, pediatricians at the University of Michigan urge parents to consider that, in general, the descriptor “educational” applied to apps and shows doesn’t mean they are educational. “For little kids, no screen-based activity is ever as educational as talking, singing, or playing with you,” the medical professionals concluded.
Regarding Cocomelon, Jerrica Sannes (a child development expert with an MEd in early childhood, currently located in Orange County CA) was one of the first people to speak out with concerns. On Instagram, Sannes wrote: “Cocomelon is so hyperstimulating that it actually acts as a drug, as a stimulant. The brain gets a hit of dopamine from screen-time and it seems that the stronger the ‘drug’ aka the level of stimulation a show delivers, the stronger the ‘hit.’ This leads to 1) children experiencing symptoms of addiction and withdrawal, often leaving them dysregulated, and 2) a general discomfort with the speed of everyday life. The more children watch the show, the more the brain begins to expect that kind of stimulation. This makes it impossible for the child to play creatively and without entertainment.”
Cocomelon, Sannes thinks–with its 2-second scene changes, fast camera movements, and emphasis on multiple effects–is too stimulating for some children.
Although there are no academic studies on howCocomelon affects neurodivergent children, parents, commenting on social media about the program, express both concerns and positive stories. One mom says, “Cocomelon worked great for my son. He went from nothing but baby babble at 2 years old to actually saying sentences before his 3rd birthday. Cocomelon and Baby Shark songs helped with his speaking when speech therapy didn’t work. It depends on the kid themselves.” One dad said it helped his nonverbal daughter learn “to sing”. But another mom says, “It causes my son to be very over-stimulated and he can become aggressive from over stimulation. He’s 22 month. Pingfong is the worst. Then Cocomeolon is second.”
Letting your neurodivergent child watch TV shows on occasion can actually be beneficial, allowing them to find common ground with peers and parents and learn through auditory and visual teaching.
Some experts think that viewing Cocomelon is absolutely fine for young children. Nicole Beurkens, a psychologist in Grand Rapids, finds Cocomelon stimulating but not overwhelming. With its bright colors, it helps babies (whose eyesight is not fully developed) to see what’s going on, and the repetition of the music is educationally valuable for children.
Daniel Marullo, a clinical psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, urges parents to be gentle with themselves. “It’s not about certain shows over others. The general trend is that there is no benefit to media. If Mom wants to go take a shower and needs 20 minutes, OK. Let’s be reasonable, right? But as a rule, as much as you can, you want screen time to be an interactive experience.”
It seems the name of the game is really as one parent in the Facebook support group for families with neurodivergent children says: “I think many of y’all are finding out autism is a spectrum and what works wonders for one child can be detrimental to others.”
If Cocomelon works well for you and your family, that is your choice. If turning off Cocomelon presents problems, perhaps the issue is the show itself, or perhaps the issue is working with your child to establish more consistent routines and screen time boundaries.
Let us know your experience with Cocomelon in the comments!