Why Not Just Shut It Off?

Hundreds of studies have proven that TV helps shape what kids think and do. And most people agree that a lot of what is on commercial TV these days isn't likely to help shape kids into the kind of people we want them to be.

If TV can have a negative influence on kids, should we turn it off?

Well, that's neither practical nor realistic. To think about the question, consider this: Should we keep our kids inside all day because there are cars on the streets and cars can be dangerous? You can't keep a child inside forever. At some point they need to learn how to safely navigate the world around them. We do that by teaching kids to avoid danger by crossing the street properly, first with adult supervision (holding hands), and eventually - when they've mastered looking both ways and crossing at corners with the light - by themselves.

It's the same with television. You can't keep kids away from it forever. There's at least one TV set in every American home [according to statistics], so kids are going to watch. The best solution is to supervise television viewing when you can teach your children to be "media literate", not just indiscriminately soaking it all in.

Children must learn to be active and critical viewers. You can teach them how by communicating your feelings about the content of TV shows and asking your children to share their feelings. And that goes for both positive and negative content. If you see behavior modeled in a TV show that you really like, let your child know. Reinforce the good messages and discourage the bad.

Actively watching television - responding to its content - is one of the many ways you communicate your values to your children.

Reprinted with permission from The Ones to Grow On: [PBS] Channels 45/49's Ready to Learn Newsletter, Vol. 2, Iss. 1, pp 3.

© 1997 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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