WHAT YOU’VE HEARD Kids who watch a lot of TV
are at risk for weight and sleep problems, and poor
THE REALITY TV is on the front lines of the kids and
media issue. While studies have found associations
between watching TV and various issues, that doesn’t
mean TV is the direct cause. “In some cases, excessive
television watching may be an indication of other
problems at home,” says Tracie Afifi, a community
health scientist at the University of Manitoba in
Canada. Research suggests that high-quality TV
shows, viewed in moderation, can be educational.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT It’s a matter of balance: You
don’t want TV to eat into time kids would otherwise
spend running around outside or finishing homework.
So limit viewing time and be selective. In a nutshell,
quality and age-appropriate content matters. And use
the parental controls. Most TVs contain a V-chip you can
access via the remote through the main or set-up menu
to block specific shows or to prevent kids from seeing
content that has a particular rating or airs after a certain
time. Netflix also has parental controls that can be
found and set in the “Manage Profiles” section of “Your
Whenever possible, watch TV with your kids, and use
the content to start a conversation. Talk about portrayals
of girls and women, or nonwhite characters, for example,
is there bias in the way people are portrayed? Parents
can do a lot to help their children interpret, understand,
and critique media.
WHAT YOU’VE HEARD Playing video games
makes kids antisocial and aggressive.
THE REALITY Video games aren’t categorically
bad. They can take time away from physical activity
and other important “real life” activities, but the main
concern centers around those that display and reward
gratuitous physical aggression, especially if fighting,
guns, and shooting are involved. Research shows that
kids who play violent video games are more likely to
display antisocial behavior, but we don’t know that the
video games are the direct cause, in part because kids
who are prone to violence might also be likely to play
violent games. Experts urge parents to follow ratings
advisories, restricting kids under 17 from playing games
with an “M” rating.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT Studies show that well-
designed, nonviolent, age-appropriate video games
can help improve abstract reasoning, problem
solving, math skills, and hand-eye coordination.
Sports, dance, or fitness-theme video games that
use dance pads or sports equipment can help
kids become more physically active. Be an
engaged participant in your kids’ selections,
and teach critical thinking about the games
so they can make good decisions when
you’re not around. When it comes to
self-contained systems like Xbox and
Wii, you can do the choosing and get
to know the games.
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