Kids and Violence in Media
How do the images our children see on TV, and in movies and video games affect them – and how can parents dial down the exposure?
Choosing Appropriate TV and Movies
Sure, you’d love to sit down with them, but for many busy moms and dads that’s just not happening. How can parents make sure their kids are watching age-appropriate shows?
Check the content. Sites like Common Sense Media let parents look up, for free, virtually any show or movie to get an age recommendation as well as an idea of the content, so you know exactly what you’re getting before you drop $10 on a movie.
Use controls. Tools like the V-Chip or services offered by your cable provider let you block content you don’t want your kids to see on TV. Same goes with gaming systems.
DVR it. Sometimes you need a few kids-out-of-hair minutes to make an important phone call, and you’re stuck with whatever happens to be on TV. With a little planning, you can record shows that you feel comfortable with, says Knorr. On-demand is also great for this, but be sure to mute the previews.
Mind the commercials. Sure, you can control show content, but Knorr reminds parents that TV ads are a wild card. This is another reason the DVR is great – just fast-forward right through.
Watch your own viewing. That news you have on in the background while you’re getting ready in the morning? That counts as exposure to violent content, and Dr. O’Keeffe says it can be especially scary to big kids, who understand that it’s real.
Mitigate the older sibling effect. “Older children sometimes like to be enlisted in helping to protect a younger sibling from scary or violent media, especially once they learn that even something that seems fun to them might cause nightmares in someone younger,” says Garrison. “When looking for media choices that can be a good fit across a wide age span, sometimes non-fiction is the way to go -- documentaries about animals, boats, construction projects, or space travel can be fun for the whole family, and I've seen boys and girls of all ages really enjoy cooking and home remodel shows.” That’s stuff Mom and Dad might even like too. If all else fails, fire up the laptop or tablet to let your kids watch different shows.
Use YouTube. Kids feel grown-up watching YouTube, which lets you curate a G-rated playlist, says Knorr.
Talk it out. You’re not always going to be able to control what your kid sees at a friend’s house. Or you might, like me, just make a bad call. The antidote to kids seeing something they shouldn’t is to use it as a teaching moment. “Say, ‘How did they resolve it? What were the consequences of how they behaved? Was there another way they could have acted?’ You need to get kids to understand that conflicts can be resolved without violence,” says Knorr.