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Health & Parenting

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Getting Kids Away From TV: A Parent's Guide

WebMD Health News

Feb. 8, 2001 -- If it's on television, chances are your kids are watching it. From violent cartoons to chair-throwing, hair-pulling antics on the Jerry Springer Show, your kids are absorbing a pretty distorted view of the world. And a new study finds that sexual innuendo on television is on the rise.

Two out of every three TV programs last season had sexual references or sexy behavior, according to the study released by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, an independent social research agency. Add this to the 3,500-plus studies conducted over the last 50 years showing the detrimental effects that television has on kids, and it's no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stepped in, issuing guidelines on TV viewing.

Television, video games, movies -- "these are not benign, not just entertainment," says Michael Rich, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Rich is a member of the AAP's committee on public education.

"Children are learning lessons from everything they see. The question is, is this the world you want them to see? In many ways, [TV viewing] is an addictive behavior," Rich tells WebMD. "Kids will object to it at first. But once the habit is broken, it's not so hard to stay away from TV. The real key is to decide what you want your kids to do and stick to it."

How, then, can you gain control over your children's viewing habits? Here's a helpful list of 15 do's and don'ts for parents:

First off, don't create the "forbidden fruit syndrome," where television becomes much more attractive because it's not permitted in the house. "It can sometimes become even more fun and challenging for a child to try to sneak around parents' rules -- when they aren't looking -- than to comply with them, says Thomas N. Robinson, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at Stanford University. Robinson also sits on the AAP's committee on public education.

  1. Negotiate with your kids to set a "media budget" -- the number of hours a day/week kids can spend watching television, movies, or playing video games -- as long as you have approved the content. The AAP recommends one or two hours a day, but stay flexible, Robinson says.

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