Studies have shown that unsupervised television viewing can have an adverse effect on some children. Without your guidance, the action kids witness on the small screen can translate into fear, desensitization to real-life violence and aggressive behavior, especially in young kids. To prevent the wrong message from penetrating impressionable minds, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests the following:
1. Watch TV with your kids. Harness the power of television in a positive way. TV can be a valuable tool for learning and expanding one's awareness of the world. Some of these images and messages can be overwhelming for children to process, but your presence can provide reassurance and instant feedback when your child has questions or concerns.
2. Set limits on the amount of TV your child watches. Be firm. Limit children's TV viewing to an hour or two daily.
3. Hide the remote. Eliminate channel surfing, which encourages passive viewing.
4. Keep TV out of your youngster's bedroom. Children should watch their favorite shows in a central area of the home.
5. Whenever possible, videotape programs and watch them later. This allows you to preview the shows and decide if they are appropriate. It can also prevent you from being caught off guard and will give you ample time to prepare for a discussion of sensitive issues with your child.
6. Discourage repeated viewings of the same video. The graphic language, violence and sexual content of movies rated PG-13 and R can have a cumulative effect on a child if they're watched over and over again.
7. Make use of ratings systems to know whether or not a program or movie is appropriate for your child.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2003