The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: A Short Guide to the Best (& Worst) Documentary Channels for Kids

Kids should watch more TV. Specifically, they should watch good quality documentaries – as often as possible. This is because teachers and books and parents are no longer the fountains of all knowledge. If kids can learn and supplement their knowledge from television and the internet, they will develop a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the world around them. And that can only be a good thing…

Except, that is, if they are exposed to the outright rot masquerading as educational ‘documentaries’ on many of our channels.

Kids need to learn to tell the good from the bad, and to learn to question the rubbish which is often put on certain channels with no apology or warning.

To get kids and their parents started, here is a rough guide to the good, the bad and the ugly documentary channels out there:



The History Channel

Most of the outright rubbish on this channel is dangerous, stupid and can cause a lifetime of damage. Half of the content has only the vaguest connection to any kid of ‘history’. The rest as absolute tripe. Take ‘documentaries’ like ‘Ancient Aliens’, ‘Storage Wars’, ‘Pawn Stars’, ‘Bamazon’, ‘The Legend of Shelby The Swamp Man’, ‘Alien Files Unsealed’ – and almost any other programmes on the Dis-story Channel and you will find very little history, fewer reliable facts and a whole lot of unadulterated nonsense.

Parents: keep kids far away from this channel. Kids: You’re better off watching MTV – at least they’re honest about not showing what they say they do.


The Discovery Channel

Discovery programmes can be good, but most often they are not. Like the Dis-Story Channel, Discovery (and its subsidiary channels) seems to think that ‘reality tv’ is the same thing as a documentary. A small sampling of the inane tripe Discovery offers: ‘Sons of Guns’, ‘Dude You’re Screwed’, ‘Bear Grylls’, ‘Top Hooker’, ‘Fast n Loud’ and my least favourite ‘You Have Been Warned’.

There is some good stuff on Discovery, but it’s like talent in modern music – there is not nearly enough of it and it’s often very difficult to find. There is a lot of bad science in the Discovery paleontology offerings, but also enough truth to make them worthwhile. I do highly recommend programmes like ‘Mythbusters’, ‘Head Games’ and the like. Please be very careful with the Discovery Channel.


National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild

These are two great channels with lots of diverse, high quality programming. Highly recommended!

Travel Planet

A wonderful way for kids to learn about diverse cultures and the beauty of man-made and natural places.


Of course, there’s a lot more out there, much of it very educational. But there is just as much nonsense. Please stay away from any ‘documentaries’ which claim to explore:

  • Psychics and psychic phenomena
  • The ‘supernatural’
  • Anything with ‘super’ in the title
  • Anything with ‘the truth about’ in the programme description
  • ‘Reality television’
  • ‘Real-life’ reconstructions
  • Conspiracies
  • ‘Alternate views’

And that’s it.

Happy watching (and learning).




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