Without parental guidance, television can expose children to inappropriate messages about violence and sex, and encourage them to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. However, when used wisely, television can be educational and serve as a springboard for discussion of important issues.
These tips will help you maximize the benefits and minimize the negative effects of television on your children.
Limit the Amount of TV Your Kids Watch
- Limit TV viewing to no more than two hours per day for children over the age of two. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of quality programming a day for children. They caution against any TV for children younger than two because parent-child interaction is much more beneficial to their development.
- Require that homework and other responsibilities be completed first. Let your kids know that school, chores, and exercise have priority over TV. Balance the time spent in front of the set with activities that will develop all their skills.
- Take it one show at a time. Encourage your kids to help decide which programs they want to watch. Keep the television turned off unless there’s a specific program that your family intends to watch.
Selecting Good Quality and Appropriate Content
1. Learn to read and understand TV ratings. TV ratings are no substitute for parental judgment, but they can be helpful. The industry provides TV Parental Guidelines on the content and age-appropriateness of programs.
- The rating symbol appears as a box in the upper left corner of the screen at the start of a program. This rating is usually repeated each hour for longer broadcasts.
2. Use the V-Chip. The V-Chip is a device built into most television sets manufactured after 2000. The chip reads the TV ratings and helps parents screen out objectionable programs. Keep in mind that even with the ratings and the chips, parents must use their own discretion for such issues as cartoon violence.
3. Search out quality programming. It’s easier than ever to find high quality content, including programs that can stimulate your child’s interest in reading and other activities. Visit PBS or borrow educational videos from your library. Record valuable shows and watch them on your own schedule.
Other TV Viewing Tips
- Watch TV together as a family. It can be difficult for working parents to spend enough time with their kids, so make TV watching a family activity. You’ll be able to monitor what your kids watch and discuss it together.
- Talk about what your kids see on TV. If a show raises issues about violence, sex or drugs, use it as an opportunity to discuss these topics and present your values. Analyze how the characters deal with the conflicts in their lives.
- Set a good example. You’ll have more credibility with your kids if you limit your own TV viewing. Show them how you use your leisure time for reading, outdoor activities and other worthwhile pursuits.
- Analyze the commercials. Advertising can have a powerful impact on children. By recording shows, you can reduce their exposure to commercials. It’s also helpful to talk with your kids about how advertising seeks to influence people.
- Encourage healthy snacking. Limit snacking while watching TV. If you serve snacks, make them healthy like plain popcorn or baby carrots.
TV can expose your family to different cultures and points of view that may not be accessible in your community, such as learning about the aboriginal cultures of Australia or studying the physics of bridges.
If you use television wisely, your children’s lives can be enriched. Help your kids limit their screen time, select high quality content, and encourage family discussion and activities.