Jump directly to the content
Watching What They Watch
Watching What They Watch

Watching What They Watch


Jan 24 2013
Even 'Veggietales' can be too much for young viewers.

In the trailer for Judd Apatow's This is 40, we see the family sitting around a picnic table when the mother turns to her daughter and says, "We've decided to cut back on all the electronics we use." The daughter protests.

Dad: You need to get outside more.

Mom: Build a fort.

Daughter: Do what in the fort?

Mom: You need to develop your imagination.

Like many of us, they're grasping to control one of the most unwieldy aspects of contemporary parenting: American media.

It's both a tool and a tyrant. When my three-year-old sings along to The Sound of Music, I take pleasure knowing she's enjoying a classic film, but when she throws a fit when it's time to turn off a Kipper the Dog cartoon, I'm overwhelmed by her near-addictive behavior.

I worked in the film and TV production industry for a decade, I even studied and taught media literacy, but now as a parent I struggle to manage the media in my home. What's appropriate for my kid to watch? Starting at what age? For how long?

Especially in Christian circles, I hear plenty of pontificating on the evils of American entertainment, but as a parent, what I need most is realistic advice for the world I live in. Most of us are not going to burn our TVs. Most of us need a positive and practical model for how to raise "media wise" kids. That model should address not just the content of what we show our kids, but also the form it comes in and how it's made. That's why media literacy matters.

(I'm focusing here on TV and videos for children between about 3 and 10. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend TV viewing for kids under 3 and the 11 to 17-age kids require a different conversation.)

9 Tips for Media-Literate Families

When selecting programming….

1. Disregard labels: Phrases like "educational video" or "kid video" shouldn't be a green light, necessarily. Pediatricians will tell you that children learn best through tactile experience and interpersonal contact. No matter how many PBS logos you see, videos are a passive medium, not an active one, and an entertainment medium, not an educational one. Videos are a supplement to learning, not a substitute.

More importantly, labels pertain to content (violence or other inappropriate content), not form. Keep in mind that form can be violent for a little developing brain, if the video is excessively fast or frenetic.

2. Watch the cut rate: Pay attention to how fast the video moves. The faster the cut rate—more edits or image changes per minute—the more frenetic the video, and the more frenetic the video, the more difficulty your child will have tracking the story. Generally speaking, the younger the child, the slower the cut rate.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
A Lament for Louisiana After the Floods

A Lament for Louisiana After the Floods

As I grieve the tragedy in my home state, I’ve found solace in a surprising place.
Let Them Bake Cakes

Let Them Bake Cakes

The Great British Baking Show teaches me about offering and receiving friendship in a fractured world.
Why I’m Not a World-Changer

Why I’m Not a World-Changer

In my middle-age years, I’ve traded revolution for good old-fashioned faithfulness.
Our Bodies Are Imperfect Temples

Our Bodies Are Imperfect Temples

God dwells in us whether we’re Olympian-level muscular or morbidly obese.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.

Follow Us

Twitter

  • On this week's @CTpodcasts, @biancaolthoff on her call to preach #TheCalling https://t.co/22colyIIXk
  • 201cJust pray, y2019all.201d https://t.co/f3KoXnxGuD
  • RT @dorcas_ct: "If there2019s anything I've learned in Kenya, it2019s that only those who are privileged think we can control our lives." https:/2026
  • RT @sometimesalight: PSA: The cultural crises of the working class is a call to mission, not judgment.
  • The wandering pilgrims of Scripture have taught me something surprising about the floods in my homeland https://t.co/f3KoXnxGuD


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Watching What They Watch