Menu

Articles For Parents

Control Viewing  |  Use TV Positively  |  Talk back!
Limit Commercialism  |  The V-Chip

In most American households, the television is on all the time that people are awake in the house and the activities of the household are directed and controlled by the television. Individual family members watching their different shows on multiple televisions, playing video games, and browsing the internet have added to the sense of isolation many kids have. Since television is basically a commercial vehicle, this means we have turned over the control of our family life to advertisers! We are being entertained to death.

While we don't advocate tossing the tube in the trash, we do advocate that parents take back control of family life. The television should be a servant, not a master.

General Guidelines for Parents


Click on the topic header for more detailed information

Control Viewing
While we don't advocate tossing the tube in the trash, we do advocate that parents take back control of family life. The television should be a servant, not a master.

Taking back control means changing habits that may be deeply ingrained in your own behavior. Parents often need to reassess their own TV watching practices, and take control of their own viewing habits. Remember, children learn far more from what they see you do than from what you say!

Use TV Positively
There are a wealth of excellent educational programs on television (particularly on cable) that can be used to broaden your children's experience of the world. Watch Animal Planet to see how elephants live. Visit the bottom of the ocean on the Discovery Channel. Visit China on the Travel Channel. Watch Arthur or Reading Rainbow on PBS! Don't just look at the listing for the "Big Four." Read down through your cable guide carefully.

Talk Back!
While we would never advocate talking in movie theatres, we do advocate "talking back" to your TV while watching with your family. While in many cases (an engrossing movie, for instance) you should wait for the commercial break, sometimes it is best to make comments right away during the show. Making comments back to "talking heads" and commenting is silly claims made in commercials helps children know that it isn't true just because it was on TV, and helps them draw a line between the tube and their own thinking.

Limit Commercialism
Commercial time has exploded. In a recent study, the daytime level of advertising was 20:53 minutes per hour. Network news showed 18:53 minutes of commercials per hour and late night news aired 19:06 minutes of ads per hour.

Children's shows are often just half-hour commercials for toy lines. You may need to decide to draw the line on extremely commercialized programs, or at least limit the number of program-related toys that the child can buy.

The V-Chip
The Telecom Deregulation Act of 1996 mandated the all televisions larger than 13" sold after 1999 contain a "V-Chip" that allowed parents to block inappropriate programming. Today, many regard the V-Chip as a joke. V-Chips do work for those programmers that comply responsibly; but just as with film ratings, programmers often stretch the point. NBC and BET don't participate in the ratings system at all. Many parents are still not aware that programs on NBC do not carry the encoding to trigger the V-Chip.