Recommendations to Families on Responsible Use of the Media
Below are parent guidelines for how much time, the way to use, and how to maximize learning in regards to allowing their children watch TV.
- Time. Make a deliberate effort to control the media. Limit the total amount of "screen time" that children spend with the media to 1 to 2 hours a day for older children. Talk with children to plan what those hours will be, realizing that some difficult decisions will be necessary. Television is not appropriate for children under age 2.
- Use. Avoid turning the media into an "electronic babysitter." Do not make the mistake of believing that videos or television programs are a satisfactory substitute for real, live interaction with your child about high-quality picture books. Remember that part of what makes a vacation memorable is conversation about a shared experience, not the video game, CD player, or movie video that was playing in the back of a minivan to keep children pacified.
- Access. Move the media away from the center of family life. Avoid leaving the TV set or radio on constantly, as this tends to interfere with conversation. Make your child's bedroom a media-free zone, because many children watch inappropriate programs late at night when they are not supervised.
- Modeling. Be a good example of responsible media use. Show your child how you control and plan media choices, rather than aimlessly channel surf or Internet surf.
- Appropriateness. Just because a program has cartoon characters, that does not mean it is harmless. In fact, there is more violence in cartoons than in any other type of program. All cartoons are not intended for children. Some of the programs in cartoon format have themes and represent behaviors that are entirely inappropriate for the very young, such as The Simpsons.
- Discussion. Raise questions about what your child has seen, heard, or read. Point out exaggerated or false claims in advertising, and remind children of their disappointments with various heavily advertised toys. Talk about stereotypes, addressing what they are, and how they can affect attitudes. Help children differentiate between fantasy and reality, and discuss misconceptions that might be promoted in the media (e.g., that people do dangerous stunts and are totally unharmed).
- Options. Plan for the next electrical power outage or television set breakdown with a packet of interesting games, stories, and activities, so that children see there are alternatives to screen time. Schedule a turn-off-the-TV week during national TV-Turnoff Week, which is always April 24-30.
Singer, D., Singer, J., & Zuckerman, D. (1990). The parent's guide: Use TV to your child's advantage. Reston, VA: Acropolis Books.
Spencer, M. (1998). What do parents need to know about children's television? (No. N00157). Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois, Children's Research Center (ACCESS ERIC No. R1890120).
TV-Turnoff Week. (2006). www.tvturnoff.org.
Wright, J.L., & Shade, D. D. (1996). Technology and young children: What parents should know. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. www. naeyc. org/resources/ eyly.
Note: Special thanks to Lisa Prebish, April Barrick, and Marcy Gianvito, master's students in early childhood at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, for gathering resources for this figure.
Sources: Adapted from American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001.
© ______ 2007, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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