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Health & Parenting

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Parents Back Stricter TV Standards for Kids

But Survey Shows Few Use Available Tools for Policing Sex, Violence

Education Lacking

But more than fines, advocates decry a lack of education on the availability of rating systems and technology for parents who worry about their kids' TV watching. Only 6% of parents surveyed were aware of American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations urging parents to avoid letting children under 2 years of age watch television.

"If this is something that the pediatricians feel strongly about; it's going to have to be communicated much more effectively to parents," Rideout says.

"We give the parents the tools, but we put them out there without educating them about the tools," says Patti Miller, director of the children and media program at Children Now, an advocacy group.

Some activists have called for a single, uniform rating system that applies to all media content, including movies, television, and video games, arguing that separate ratings for different forms of entertainment are too hard to understand.

Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, stresses that movie ratings have been successful because they are simple and voluntary. But he says that uniform ratings are unworkable because of the huge volume of movies, music, and other media produced each year.

"It's humanly impossible for one panel to do the ratings," he says.

The FCC could consider moves to enforce broadcast-style decency standards on cable stations and is likely to take a closer look at advertising content during children's programming times. But the bottom line, Abernathy says, is more attention by parents of children's viewing habits.

"You need to be a more proactive parent. It's just the way it is," she says.

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