Podcasts reel in youth audiences

LOTS OF WAYS TO LEARN: Parents are turning to podcasts. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK.
LOTS OF WAYS TO LEARN: Parents are turning to podcasts. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK.

Podcasts are not a new phenomenon. Over the last decade, podcasts have blossomed into an industry all of their own covering a huge range of areas, from science to current affairs, comedy to health and crime. Unsurprisingly, it is not just an audio world for adults. There are a growing number of podcasts for kids, too.

These productions are not only a valuable tool in keeping kids entertained - and they have the ability to do that - they offer opportunities to explore new worlds and ideas.

On the entertainment front, there are a range of fictionalised stories playing out for kids via podcast. These stories are something like old-fashioned radio dramas but with exceptionally high production values in some cases. Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is an example of this kind of podcast. Kids will guess along as Mars, a primary school student, investigates the disappearance of his friends. There are now several series available.

On the educational front, Australia is producing its own quality content. Short & Curly explores ethical questions for kids. In case you are worried this may be a little over the heads of the smaller members of the family, they explore themes like 'Is using auto tune cheating' or 'When is it okay to dob on your friends?'.

Fierce Girls, another Aussie podcast, explores the lives of influential women, with their stories voiced by stars of sport, politics and screen.

For slightly older kids, there are thought-provoking offerings out of the US, including Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Sawbones and This American Life. Parents will have to curate these play lists based on the topics being covered, as they sometimes cover themes that would not be suitable to all listeners.

Podcasts can also offer a completely immersive experience into another culture. Podcasting for Teachers' Garrett Pederson notes that language podcasts can be a very valuable method of improving students' acquisition of a second language.

Podcasts are also a valuable tool for relaxation and escape for kids who may be feeling trapped indoors at the moment. There are offerings focusing on mindfulness for kids and teens, including the Peace Out podcast, which features relaxing stories to help prepare for bedtime.

While many podcasts are free, others require a subscription or fee to access.

Podcasts can be found in most of the same places you find music, such as Spotify, and there are numerous other apps available for download, including Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.

Top picks for family listening

Short & Curly: Explore the world of ethics in a hundred every day ways, including 'Is it ever okay to fight back against a bully?'. This Australian production is now in its 11th series and has 66 episodes available.

Fierce Girls: The stories of influential women voiced by modern Australians of note. 46 episodes.

Wow in the World: Slightly bonkers but with charm, Wow in the World hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz explore the world of science. American production, 179 episodes.

Brains On: This science-based show covers everything from narwhals to research into COVID-19. American production, 176 episodes.

Honourable mentions: But Why?, Eleanor Amplified, Story Pirates, Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Radio Lab for Kids, Peace Out, Book Club for Kids, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel.