TV Guidelines for Young Children

family watching tv together

Dear Parent Coach,

My three young children are constantly asking to see TV programs I don't approve of but their friends watch, or to rent videos I'm not sure about. The monitoring requirements of today's parent seem constant. Can you offer guidelines?

Signed, "Parent Censor"

The effort that parents like yourself make in censoring their children's exposure to TV, movies, and the media is as important to their children's health and well-being as the limiting of junk food is in their diets.

Greatly lowered standards of media messages and increased openness in TV programming toward topics that used to be taboo require more diligence on the part of parents who want to impress their own important values on their children. This is best accomplished if both parents agree on what is acceptable TV fare for their children, and each parent consistently enforces these decisions.

When children are young, it is responsible and wise to limit much of what they are viewing at home. Some families have one or two appropriate TV programs they look forward to watching together, such as Extreme Home Makeover or American Idol. Generally, unsupervised TV viewing should be off limits during the school week.

kids watching television

There are many other enlightening and educational offerings on TV that can be enjoyed by the entire family and that can support family values. Others may be either a negative influence or a waste of time. Choose carefully.

However diligent you are, it is impossible for parents to protect their children from every negative influence in their world. TV news programs used to serve as a method of educating children about what was happening in the world but now have become horror shows filled with school shootings, freeway chases, and the violence of war. Even sporting events, once enjoyed by children, have become questionable viewing when inappropriate commercials pop up unexpectedly.

Parents have more control in choosing DVDs or movies their children watch. What children might view while visiting a friend's home, however, is another concern for parents. There will always be families who make more lenient choices than your own. It takes courage for parents to hold firm to their own standards when their children's friends have fewer limits.

Young children are very impressionable, and I encourage you to continue to be a diligent "parent censor" regarding their TV and video watching for the sake of your children's healthy emotional growth. Yes, it is a constant and tiring task, but in the end, you will feel great satisfaction in having protected your children from junk and mindless viewing. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

boy watching television

Practical Parenting Pointers:

1. Allow your children to only watch programs you've pre-approved or they view with you.
2. Limit or eliminate "screen time" during the school week.
3. Have a "no TV" rule when children go to a friend's home. Encourage creative play instead.
4. Watch TV news programs after children are in bed.
5. List acceptable DVDs for your children to choose from.
6. Use internet sites such as for parental guidelines regarding movies and videos.
7. Ratings of PG and PG13 have been determined by the film industry. These ratings may not coincide with your family values; check films out for yourself.
8. Place a basket of books beside the TV to give your children another choice.
9. Board games encourage positive family interaction more so than TV viewing.

Parent well!

The Parent Coach

About the Author:

The Parent Coach, Jan Roberts, also teaches weekly parenting classes, coaches parents individually, and writes a weekly newspaper column.