Parents and caretakers are crucially important in determining their children’s media use and helping them learn to make good media choices independently. Below are some suggestions to help you take charge of your family’s television viewing. Always keep in mind the unique stages and needs of your children so you can make decisions – and help them make decisions - that are appropriate to who they are at a particular time. Each child is unique and grows at his/her own pace while progressing along general developmental stages.
Remember that you are your children’s first teacher. Be a role model -- use media the way you want them to use it.
Avoid using television as a babysitter. Instead, make watching television a conscious, planned-for activity, and - whenever possible - an interactive family event. Don’t leave your television on when you’re not watching it. Turn it on for a specific program, and turn it off again when it’s over. This makes television a special experience that your children can look forward to.
Be selective about the shows you and your children watch. Establish family guidelines forselecting programs.
Monitor the shows your children like to watch and familiarize yourself with them. Whenever possible, spend some time watching them with your kids.
Get in the habit of talking to your children about what they are watching. Ask them why they watch a specific program. Model active engagement – ask your children what characters they like and don’t like, to predict what is going to happen next. Help preschoolers understand how one event is connected to previous and subsequent developments, and discuss what each event means for the characters.
Discuss the commercials and your children’s perceptions of the products being sold and who is selling them.
Help your children tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Make it clear that cartoon characters do things people cannot.
Get your children into the habit of asking permission to watch television.
Encourage your children to watch a variety of programs: sports, nature and science shows, the arts, music, etc.
Use television as a tool to spark your child’s imagination and creativity and as a springboard for other learning experiences. Television can create interest in a new topic or idea, thus providing opportunities to learn more about them in other ways.
Relate television to real life situations. Help kids connect what they see on television to events and other activities in which they’re involved, like playing sports, in order to broaden their understanding of the world.
Avoid programs that frighten your child.
Avoid programs that show characters resolving conflict with violence.
Set time limits for watching, especially during the week.
Avoid having the television on during meal times.
Keep television out of kids’ bedrooms.
Consider using parental controls like the V-chip, and make use of the age- and contentbased system that is used to rate all television programming (except for news and sports).
Use the VCR or TIVO to record shows you like that may be inappropriate for your children to watch – even the news – and watch them at a later time when they are not around.