Saturday mornings. Cold cereal and Scooby Doo. How many parents started out our childhood weekends with this simple ritual? The trick was to wake up early enough to see all of the Saturday morning cartoons because after 10 am, the children's programming was over until Sunday night's Wonderful World of Disney show came on.
My kids also like to get up on Saturday morning and watch cartoons. And on Sunday. And Monday … and Tuesday … You know the rest. While I had only a couple of channels to choose from, my kids have access to 24 hour children's programming on several channels, compliments of cable television. If you have a satellite dish, your children have access to even more programming.
More is better, right? Well, not always. With this abundance of television stations, we need to remember that not all television programming is appropriate for all audiences.
There are many parents and grandsparents who had the perspective that if it was a cartoon show the kids were watching, it was ok. Cartoon violence? Well, who has not seen that coyote catch an anvil with his head for the umpteenth time?
The fact of the matter is, when many parents were growing up, with our limited television choices, a little cartoon violence did not seem to make too much of a difference. Now our kids can choose to watch cartoon violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it is not just anvils dropping out of the clear blue sky anymore. What kind of violence exists in the cartoons our kids are watching? No, Scooby Doo does not go into a rabid rage and maul Shaggy when there are no more Scooby Snacks. But kid's shows have battles, fights, explosions and characters making threats to injure or kill each other. And our kids are choosing to watch this programming over and over again.
So how can we help our kids to make better choices? Most families are unwilling to go cold turkey and give up all television programming, although I give KUDOS to those that are brave enough to do it. You've heard it before – limit what your kids are watching. But I'd like to add one more piece of advice: teach your children how to choose programs that are acceptable to you and your family's values. This seems to be the piece that is missing from most articles I read today on the issue of television viewing and children.
How do we do this? As you know, most television shows now carry a rating to give you an idea of the type of content (TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14 and TV-MA). Content descriptors have also been added to this system to give you additional information. These descriptors indicate the presence of suggestive dialogue (D), sexual behavior (S), foul language (L), or violence (V). These ratings can be used as a starting point for determining if a television show is appropriate for your child or family.