A faculty member at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) has a popular YouTube channel that’s garnered more than 12 million views.
Pediatric researcher Marie Leiner, Ph.D., uses YouTube to share cartoons she creates for children. The cartoons, however, are not just for entertainment — they’re educational and specifically designed to solve social problems in children to instill good behavior.
“I started creating these cartoons because I was worried about how to reduce aggression among children,” Leiner says. “I wanted to create a way to help teachers and parents with behavioral problems.”
Each of Leiner’s episodes feature a little girl named Didi or a boy named Pepin that turn into superheroes when they see children behaving badly, like bullying, lying or stealing. The cartoons apply the social learning and moral disengagement theory to teach good behavior. They work by having children observe a particular behavior and its subsequent rewards or punishments.
Featured online in English and Spanish, the cartoons are most popular in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Peru. They are also very popular in the United States in Spanish. Children seem to be big fans of Didi and Pepin, Leiner says, and frequently contact her on YouTube with comments like “We want more cartoons! Please post more.”
Leiner has conducted presentations around the world to share her educational cartoons and books with elementary school teachers, too. Teachers are encouraged to play the episodes in class and then hold a class discussion about what was learned.
After using Leiner’s cartoons, many teachers contact Leiner to let her know how the lessons went. Comments include, “This is very good material. Thank you for posting.” And, “It’s a pleasure to use your videos in the classroom. They have helped us a lot and are very useful for educators.”
Leiner’s efforts have earned her more than 20,000 YouTube subscribers so far. The pediatric researcher serves as the cartoon’s producer, scriptwriter and voice of several characters, but receives assistance with the animation. The videos are part of a larger project that’s testing the effectiveness of a model of communication for children using a story format.
The videos were made possible with grants from Kohl’s and Workforce Solutions of the Upper Rio Grande.