I worry about the things my children see on TV. How can I be sure what they are watching is appropriate?
The TV rating system, known as the TV Parental Guidelines, was created to help parents choose programs that are suitable for their children. A computer device in the TV, called the v-chip, can also be used to block programs based on these ratings. The v-chip is programmed from a remote control. All new TVs (13 inches or larger) that were made in the United States after 2000 are required by federal law to have the v-chip.
The ratings apply to all TV programs except news and sports. They appear for 15 seconds at the start of a program. When the rating appears on the screen, an electronic signal sends the rating to the v-chip in the TV.
The ratings are as follows:
For all children
||For children age 7 and older. The program may contain mild violence that could frighten children younger than age 7.|
||For children age 7 and older. The program contains fantasy violence that is glorified and used as an acceptable, effective way to solve a problem. It is more intense than TV-Y7.|
||For general audience. Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages. There is little or no violence, no strong language, and little or no sexual content.|
||Parental guidance is suggested. Parents may find some material unsuitable for younger children. It may contain moderate violence, some sexual content, or strong language.|
||Parents are strongly cautioned. The program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children younger than age 14. It contains intense violence, sexual content, or strong language.|
||For mature audience. The program may not be suitable for children younger than age 17. It contains graphic violence, explicit sexual activity, or crude language.|
Additional letters may be added to the ratings to indicate violence (V), sexual content (S), strong language (L), or suggestive dialogue (D).
The ratings are usually included in local TV listings. Remember that ratings are not used for news programs, which may not be suitable for young children.
The following are other ways you can help your children develop positive viewing habits:
- Set limits. The AAP discourages TV and other media use by children younger than 2 years and encourages interactive play. For older children, total entertainment screen time should be limited to less than 1 to 2 hours per day. Do not let your children watch TV while doing homework. Do not put a TV in your children's bedrooms.
- Plan what to watch. Instead of flipping through channels, use a program guide and the TV ratings to help you and your children choose which shows to watch. Turn the TV on to watch the program and turn it off when it is over.
- Watch TV with your children. Whenever possible, watch TV with your children and talk about what they see. If your children are very young, they may not be able to tell the difference between a show, a commercial, a cartoon, or real life. Be especially careful of "reality-based" programs. Most of these shows are not appropriate for children.
- Find the right message. Some TV programs show people as stereotypes. If you see this, talk with your children about the real-life roles of women, the elderly, and people of other races.
- Help your children resist commercials. When your children ask for things they see on TV, explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things they may not need.
- Look for quality children's videos and DVDs. There are many quality videos and DVDs available for children. Check reviews before buying or renting programs or movies.
- Give other options. Watching TV can become a habit for your children. Help them find other things to do like playing; reading; learning a hobby, a sport, an instrument, or an art; or spending time with family, friends, or neighbors.
- Set a good example. As a role model, limiting your own TV viewing and choosing programs carefully will help your children do the same.
- Express your views. When you like or do not like something you see on TV, make yourself heard. Stations, networks, and sponsors pay attention to letters from the public. If you think a commercial is misleading or inappropriately targeting children, write down the product name, channel, and time you saw the commercial and describe your concerns.
- Get more information. The following resources can provide you with more information about the proper role of TV in your children's lives:
- Public service groups publish newsletters that review programs and give tips on how to make TV safe for you and your child.
- You can ask the parent organization at your child's school.
- Parents of your child's friends and classmates can also be helpful. Talk with other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about TV viewing.