Make Your Child's TV Time Worthwhile
Many parents worry about their children watching too much TV or if they are watching age approptiate TV programs. Most teachers, doctors and therapists would agree that TV watching is something to be monitored by parents. However, sometimes kids get access to a questionable program through no fault of the parent or "life" gets in the way and the parent has to allow more TV time because the parent must attend to something else.
No matter the reason a child views any program, a parent can make a teaching/learning experience from that viewing. For any TV show, asking a few simple questions of the child can touch on the following skills that can be transfered to other educational settings, like reading, history or science, or in real life situations. A parent might do the following:
1. Check for understanding - "What was that progam about?"
2. Recall - "Who were the people in the program?" You might prompt with additional questions like, "Was there a mom/dad/grandma/policeman/etc in the story?" , "Was there a pet/villian/teacher/etc?", or "Who was the hero?".
3. Sequencing - "What happened first/second/next?", "What was conclusion?"
4. Consequences - "So, what happened when the main character (or use the character's name) did that (or name the action)?" , "What do you think would have happened if he had done something else?", or "What else could the main charcter have done?"
5. Character development - "How do you think (character's name) felt when (action) happened?", "What do you think would have made (charcter's name) feel better/happier/sorry?"
6. Predicting -"So what do you think will happen next time/next week/etc?"
7. Again, checking to see if a lesson was learned or if the child simply recalls your teaching moment, ask the child later (the next day, next week or as a review before the next episode of the show is going to be viewed) to recall what happened on the last show.
At any time while discussing the show, a parent can compare what happened on the show to real life. Depending on the maturity of the child, this discussion might be a good opportunity for the parent to ask if the child has ever been in a similar situation to the TV character or knows someone else who has. It could be a good opportunity fot the parent to TEACH what they would want their child to do in a similar situation.
Probably all kids will view a program that may surprise the parent with vulgarity, sex, or violence. Talking through what was viewed gives the parent a good opportunity to teach values, appropriate choices, and clarify things that the child may have questions about.
Finally, viewing a program and talking about it could also lead to other activities to be shared between parent and child. These could include further exploration like internet searches about the TV topic, art projects about what was seen or what feelings emerged, or writing a story or a poem about the program.
While parents certainly don't have time to do this for ever single program a child views, a discussion of their viewing is good way to keep communication lines open and starting this at a young age may enable the parent to discuss difficult situations their child will encounter now or even in later teenage years. This experience does not have to be a laborious "lesson" with your child. It might simply be a five minute discussion at the dinner table, while helping him get dressed or while riding in the car.