Plan your viewing. Encourage a family attitude that television should be turned on only to watch a specific show, not just to "see what's on." Choose your shows ahead of time, using a weekly television program guide.
Develop family guidelines for selecting programs. Be sure to discuss values you believe are important and the reasons for your choices. Check channel listings, including cable, and note reviews of programs with themes and subjects that match your family guidelines. Look for shows and videos that offer different viewpoints and help in your child's education.
Make TV watching an interactive family event. Television doesn't have to end family discussion and interaction. Watch it together, and use every opportunity to talk about what you are seeing and hearing. Use storylines or characters to stimulate conversation on topics that can be difficult to discuss: family relationships, feelings, appropriate sexual behavior, divorce or death. Try "thinking out loud" as a non-threatening way to let your children hear your values and prompt their response.
Talk back to your TV. When appropriate, express your opinions by "talking" directly to the TV as you watch. Respond to sexism, racism and unnecessary violence, but point out positive portrayals as well. Don't forget to challenge commercials and the way they try to sell us not only products but attitudes and lifestyles.
Let TV expand and enlarge your world. Find related books and magazines at your public library and go on family outings based on ideas you've seen on TV. Keep an atlas or globe next to the set and find places mentioned in the news.
Be positive about TV's contribution to our world. Television is the dominant force in our media culture and an important part of children's lives. It should be evaluated fairly, not denigrated.
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October 25, 1997