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Violence on TV

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By Adele M. Brodkin, Ph.D. Q: My husband loves to watch old cowboy films and TV shows like Shane and Gunsmoke when the kids are around. I am not sure they should be watching so much shooting, because they may conclude that it is a normal way to settle differences. My husband points out that these movies are not as bad for kids as most of the current ones in theaters or on TV. What do you think? A: I think you are both correct. Generally speaking, those old classics are far less worrisome than a lot of contemporary entertainment, in which violence is embellished by advances in film technology and there is an absence of depth to the characters.

On the other hand, it's wise to select family entertainment and activities based on children's needs, rather than on parents'. If your husband enjoys relaxing with his kind of viewing, he should have plenty of time to do that when the children are asleep or otherwise engaged.

All things in moderation is a good guide. An occasional cowboy movie, carefully selected with the ages and personalities of your children in mind, can do no harm. But a steady diet of gunslingers and swinging bar doors may not be the wisest choice. Many children can clearly distinguish fact from fiction by age 7 or 8; but others become upset or overstimulated much more easily. You know your children best.

As always, then, I am back to my theme song: You can't go wrong if you tune in to your kids, get to know them, watch them grow, and respond to their individual needs. It's a tall order — never totally achievable, but a great goal.

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