Asking The Right Questions: Why You Should Pre-Select What Your Children Watch

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Asking The Right Questions: Why You Should Pre-Select What Your Children Watch

By Dr. Ted Baehr          

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** What do we watch?

Since I tested the first Growing With Television courses in New York City in the late 1970s, it has been found that the best way to start building a wholesome pattern of media consumption is by documenting each family member’s media use in a diary. For one week, each family member logs the amount of time he watches TV, uses the computer, uses smart phone, listens to CDs, and uses each medium, keeping track of what is watched, heard or used and his reaction. Also keep track of what and for how long each family member reads.  Every media use needs to be logged. This diary will help each family member understand his personal media input.  For most of the mass media of entertainment, someone else has control over what the family member is during the time he is consuming this medium.  For movies, the filmmaker(s) has control. For some media, such as computers, the user has some degree of control.

Children can be encouraged to help their family investigate their media habits.  They can create a chart for everyone in their family to complete as they watch television and consume media.  This can be placed by each media device in the house.  At the end of a week, compare what media is being consumed and the amount of time involved.  If parents can find one time when the entire family is using the media to relax, even if no one is watching the same thing or consuming the same media, this can become a great time to undertake activities together.

A simple diary might look like:

Your Family Media Diary

Who Consumed Day/Date Media used Amount of Time

(adapted from “Taking Charge of Your TV,” National PTA)


Once each family member becomes aware of  how he uses the media, he can start making conscious media choices.  Many families have negative media habits. Some parents turn on the television to keep the children occupied while supper is prepared.  The diary will help families pay close attention to the programs chosen during this time and help them to reevaluate these habits.

Please pay close attention to television news. Many news reports are not fit for younger children.  If the diary helps you to find out that this is the case, you can maker another media choice for your family during the TV news hours.

After a week of preparing each family member’s diary, the family should get together to discuss and perhaps to revise their media choices.  By pre-selecting television programs and other media use, the family can save their children nightmares. Before watching television, the family should talk about what program to watch.

As I observed in my book, Television & Reality in 1980, the mass media of entertainment is designed to capture the viewer’s attention and deliver that attentive viewer to advertisers.  Everything about a movie, video or television program, from the choice of actors to the commercial breaks, is designed to attract viewers.  If a streaming service, television network or station can document that it has a significant percentage of the viewing audience watching a particular movie or program, it can charge more for their service or for the commercials during that show.

Editor’s Note: These articles are adapted from Dr. Ted Baehr’s THE CULTURE WISE FAMILY book. You can buy a copy from www.movieguide.org or on Amazon.