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How to Talk to Your Kids about TV Shows
Most children spend more time with the television than talking to their parents. Turn this reality into a constructive opportunity by using programming to promote conversation and communicate important lessons.
1. Start talking with your kids about TV early. Don't assume the content is "going over their heads." When there's something you consider inappropriate, let your children know why. Comment on scenes that glorify violence, send irresponsible messages, or reinforce gender and racial stereotypes.
2. Open the door for children to ask questions about what they've seen on TV. Initiate the conversation by asking questions:
What did you think about the scene in that show?
How would you have felt if you were that boy on the show?
Do your friends ever say things like that?"
Do you wish your life was like the lives of people on TV?
Do the people on TV look realistic?
Talk with young children about "make-believe" and the difference between real life and TV.
3. Help your child develop critical viewing skills. Ask your child if a TV situation would happen like that in real life. Have them describe what would be more likely to happen. Ask them to think about how TV ads try to sell products with special offers and other promises. What is the ad really selling: a lifestyle, a product, a feeling?
4. Use TV programming to bring up topics such as drugs, alcohol, sex and peer pressure. Programming that incorporates these topics can provide an entry into more serious conversations. Search online for websites that provide discussion guidelines in support of specific shows.
5. Cable TV news networks have resulted in fast-breaking news stories with unsettling content 24 hours a day. Rather than ignoring disturbing news, use them as an opportunity to discuss fears and anxieties. Reassure children that "bad things happen, but we're safe and I'll always protect you." And, as Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood noted, when a disaster occurs, "Show them all the people who are helping."
6. Technology is constantly evolving and each manufacturer has their own standards when it comes to resolution and contrast. Ask questions as you compare screens not only within the same brand but also from different companies.
7. Consider how many hours your TV is on and look at power consumption. LED TVs use less power.
Keep in mind, however, that when children feel that watching television means having a lecture, the impact is diminished. The goal is to keep the kids tuned in to both the TV and the conversation.
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