Children and Their Television Trends

Statistics according to the Kaiser Family Foundation of children ages 8 to 18 years old

  • 68 percent have a television in their bedroom
  • 37 percent have cable or satellite television wired into their bedrooms
  • 50 percent have a video game system in their bedroom
  • Use non-school-related media for more than six hours each day or 44 and a half hours each week

A study at the National Institute of Mental Health found that children who see kindness on television tend to imitate it. For this reason, you may want to limit their viewing of violent programs and encourage them to watch shows that promote ideas about caring and helping.

Even television shows and commercials targeted toward very young children have messages about sexuality, including dress, body image and relationships. Research has suggested that the more sexually explicit television a child watches, the earlier the child will become sexually active.

When children watch TV, it is best to have rules

Here are some suggestions

  • Watch TV with your children and explain the difference between what is pretend and what is real.Tell them what you agree with and what you don’t agree with.
  • Avoid using television as a “baby-sitter.” Children will get the idea that you think watching TV is good for them.
  • Turn the TV on just for the special shows you want to watch and then turn it off. Children will learn to do this as well instead of just turning it on and “vegging” out with it.
  • Pick educational programs right for the age of your child instead of letting them watch soap operas or nighttime television.
  • No TV for infants and children under the age of 2, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Children over age 2 watch no more than one to two hours a day of quality - educational and nonviolent - programming, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Videos and DVDs that claim to enhance an infant’s intelligence there is no existing research that suggests that these products are good for children.
  • Encourage young children to play games, go outside or read books.

TV ratings

As you watch TV, you might have noticed the small rating box in the upper left hand corner of the TV screen. Those ratings were designed to help parents determine if a TV program is appropriate or not.

All children

This program is designed to be appropriate for all children. Whether animated or live-action, the themes and elements in this program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 2 -6. This program is not expected to frighten younger children.

Directed to older children

This program is designed for children age 7 and above. It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy violence or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of seven. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children.

Directed to older children - fantasy violence

For those programs where fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative than other programs in this category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV.

General audience

Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages. Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.

Parental guidance suggested

This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children. Many parents may want to watch it with their younger children. The theme itself may call for parental guidance and/or the program may contain one or more of the following: some suggestive dialogue (D), infrequent coarse language (L), some sexual situations (S), or moderate violence (V).

Parents strongly cautioned

This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children less than 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L), or intensely suggestive dialogue (D).

Mature audience only

This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17 years of age. This program contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).

Your televisions V-chip

Every television set 13 inches or larger manufactured after January 2000 is equipped with features to block the display of television based on its rating or a V-chip.For more information, checkout the Federal Communications Commission.

Is there a V-chip in every television?

The V-chip is in every television set 13 inches or larger manufactured after January 2000 and some sets sold after July 1, 1999. This means if you bought a new television set after July 1, 1999, your television is most likely equipped with a V-chip.

How do I program and activate the V-chip?

Each television set’s V-chip works a little differently. Once you understand the definition of each rating and content label, programming and activating the V-chip is as simple as following the set-up procedure which can be found in one of two places: 1) the television on-screen menu options, or 2) the written instruction guide included in the owner’s manual. The V-chip will only be activated if you select the option to do so.

How do I ensure that my child will not de-activate the V-chip?

To activate the V-chip, a parental lock code is required. This identification number acts as the password to activate, de-activate and change the settings of the V-chip.

Does the V-chip turn off when I turn my television off?

Turning the television off will not turn off the V-chip. It will continue to block programs when the television is turned on again.

What type of programming does the V-chip block?

The V-chip can block programming by age-based category or content label. For instance, if you want to block all TV-14 programs, you can do so by selecting TV-14. If you only want to block TV-14 programs that contain higher levels of violence, you can select TV-14-V. You should also know that when you block a particular rating or content label, all categories above that will be blocked. For example, if you block all TV-14 programs, all TV-MA programs will also be blocked. If you blockTV-14-V programs, all TV-MA-V programs will also be blocked.

Can the V-chip block out motion pictures that carry the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating?

Motion pictures that are uncut and unedited can run on premium channels (e.g. HBO and Showtime). You can set the V-chip to block these programs using the MPAA rating system.

For more information

TV Parental Guidelines

Video Game Ratings
Entertainment Software Rating Board
American Academy of Pediatrics

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation