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How to Monitor Children’s Television Habits

Updated on June 21, 2012

Television And Children

Television And Children
Television And Children | Source

Children Using The Remote Control

A Seven Year Old and The Remote
A Seven Year Old and The Remote | Source

We have five children, ages seven and under. I just recently explained how the remote works to my seven year old boys. I have had 100% control of the television up to this point. I know parents who are proud that their three year old can operate their televisions. I felt prouder that my children could not. Some people may feel that their child develops resourcefulness by learning to operate a remote control, but I believe television can distract children from learning their parent's values. I want my children to have good values they learn from my husband and me. That is why we've implemented these tips for monitoring.

My step daughter is nineteen. About five summers ago, she babysat some children a few days a week. They were given a list of things they could do. They could play outside with her supervision. They could play on the computer, accessing specified websites, for a set period of time. They could watch a television show but it could only be off their DVR list. We didn’t have a DVR yet. I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant.

Now that I have imparted the knowledge of the remote control to my children, it made me ponder, “How will I monitor my children’s television habits?”

We decided it was necessary to:

  • Monitor our DVR list
  • Use television rating systems
  • Utilize parental controls
  • Control Netflix instant queue

Digital Video Recording or DVR

DVRs save television data on its hard drive so that it can be replayed later. TiVo is a brand name DVR that can be used in conjunction with cable systems as well. All cable and satellite companies offer DVR services, usually for an additional fee. After viewing your guide, a calendar like view of all shows including day, time and channel, you can chose to record shows by simply pressing the record button. Once recorded, they appear in your ‘list’ or similar view depending on your DVR setting. We only let our children choose shows to watch that I have put on our DVR list. This prevents settling for a show that I do not want my children to watch, but happens to be on television at that time.

Understanding TV Ratings

Rating
Approved Audience
TV-Y
All Children
TV-Y7
Directed to Older Children
TV-Y7 FV
Directed to Older Children - Fantasy Violence
TV-G
General Audience
TV-PG
Parental Guidance Suggested
TV-14
Parents Strongly Cautioned
TV-MA
Mature Audience Only
Understanding TV Ratings tvguideslines.org

TV Ratings

TV Ratings
TV Ratings | Source

Explanation of Content Labels

Content Label
Explanation
D
suggestive dialogue (usually means talks about sex)
L
coarse or crude language
S
sexual situations
V
violence
FV
fantasy violence (children’s programming only)
Content Labels tvguidelines.org

Utilizing TV Ratings

I know what shows my kids enjoy and which are appropriate for their age. Sometimes their friends will mention a new show and my kids will say that they just have to watch it. Thank goodness for TV Ratings. TV Ratings, much like the movie ratings, allow parents to know for what age group the show has been deemed appropriate. Because our children are ages seven and younger, we only set our DVR for shows that are rated Y or Y7.

Sports and the news shows do not carry ratings.

Our Parental Control Options

Our Parental Control Options
Our Parental Control Options | Source

Parental Controls

Most cable and satellite systems allow you to set parental controls. We use DirecTV as our provider. We can set rating limits on movies and television. We can block adult channels, specific channels and web videos. Because pay per view can be ordered from our television, we can set our spending limits. Additionally, we can set viewing hours.

Additionally, via DirecTV, each show has parental information. Choosing this option gives me a brief summary of the show including rating, message, violence, sex or language. Any language deemed questionable will be listed in this view.

Using parental controls, our play room television is set so that TV-14 and TV-MA shows are not permitted without a parental override. It is password protected.

Netflix

With the new power of the remote, given our permission, our children are allowed to turn on the television and watch Netflix via the Wii. Netflix allows streaming of movies and television shows to multiple devices for a low monthly cost. There are many membership options including DVD rental as well as unlimited online access.

We only utilize the online access. Netflix allows you to choose a movie to watch now or you place it in your instant queue to watch at another time. Netflix recently added Netflix Just For Kids. Just for Kids includes movies suitable for ages 12 and under and can be selected by character. My children can chose from Leapfrog, Sonic or Johnny Test by selecting the character picture. While overseeing, I have allowed my children to browse the Just for Kids selections. Together we will add a movie to their instant queue.

I only permit my children to watch movies I have added to their instant queue or that we have added to the queue together.

When I access my Netflix account, the first thing I see is Recently Watched. I see a picture of the show or movie last watched on my account. I know instantly if my children accessed a show I was not aware of and exactly how far into the show they watched.

Overprotective Mom?

Some could say I am being overprotective. I think I am just being a Mom. My job is to prepare my children to become contributing members of the community. They are getting old enough that they are now riding the bus and being influenced by others. We discuss the things that they hear. My kids will remind each other when something is inappropriate. The television can be a huge influence on what my kids might say, do or think.

The television is not allowed on unless I permit it. However, there are 2 foolproof ways to make sure my kids are not watching something I do want them to watch.

1. Watch with my children.

2. Turn the TV and Devices Off.

© 2012 Karen Lackey

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    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, uninvited writer! It is effort that is well worth it now and in the long run!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      So many parents just sit theie kids down in front of the TV and don't think about it. You have to control what they watch. Well done.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for commenting, jellygator. The habit is learned at home. I completely agree! Great job with your kids!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      I was a parent whose TV stayed off 90% of the time. My children are grown now and guess what? They don't watch much television at all, and I think they're more interactive with their families than they might be otherwise.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Good points, Buckleupdorothy. My kids do watch TV, but we do try to keep on eye on what and how much they watch. The DVR makes it so much easier. They only watch what I allow. Thanks for the comments. I appreciate it!

    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 5 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      Ug. Tee Vee - such a double-edged sword! I remember *very fondly* growing up with shows like Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rodgers, Sesame Street, and that show with the dog and his boy who re-enacted classic stories. I learned a lot, I like to think, and it was something my brother and I could share, then and now.

      But there's always that fine line between letting your children become completely addicted and the trade off between peace and quiet for care-givers, while the tube is on, and the much harder but decidedly rewarding work of developing healthy outdoor/play/read habits is a tough one to balance.

      One thing I feel should be mentioned about things like TiVo and DVR is that young children come to expect their shows on demand, which can open the door to Dora the Explorer marathons that you would otherwise be able to avoid with the simple, inarguable fact that it's simply not on. It was handy when potty training (you can pause the show, so going to the bathroom wasn't a "punishment" for the afflicted child) but I do not envy the parents who, with potty training complete, now have to explain to their kids that afternoons full of tv are just not on anymore.

      Good luck to all you parents out there!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, goodlady. Letting children watch TV is an easy alternative to having them keep themselves busy. It is much easier when the weather is nice. It is more of a challenge for our family in the cold months. Thanks for reading and sharing!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I'm sending my Hub to my son and wife who have a precocious 2 year old who sees them on their iphones a lot (both of them freelance media people). They might get a lot out of your Hub, thanks. She loves the iphone and knows how to look at pictures, stop them and look at them again. So teaching her that she can only do this once or twice a day is one of their primary, most difficult, ongoing tasks. She also adores cartoons (like me), and again, they have found a way to let this be a special treat. They have given her a special seat to sit in and they choose together which 1 short movie she can see (maybe 2). It's a hard one in a media household, but oh so necessary. And all 3 know it!

      Helpful Hub, nicely researched and good looking layout with very useful suggestions. You are helping a lot of people here. Voting up.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      You are funny, billybuc, and correct! Kids watch too much TV. Luckily my kids really enjoying playing outside! Thanks for commenting!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great hub and I'm right alongside Judi Bee on this issue. Less tv is better and hooray for you for taking steps in the right direction. As a former teacher I often wished I could find a way to ban television from my students, forcing them to, in effect, get a life!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Judi Bee! I think excessive television watching can cause issues all around. Thanks for the comments!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      I don't think you are an overprotective mother at all, I wish more children had parents who monitored their TV habits. Teachers are noticing an increasing trend - children who come to school unable to converse since they only know how to watch TV, they don't interact with their parents. They are missing out on their development.

      Voted up etc.