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Your Kids and Television: The Dangers of Explicit Shows and Commercials

Danger Zone

Monitoring your teen's viewing of sexually explicit material during these years is tough, as he may keep much later hours than you do. One simple way to keep his viewing “clean” is to consider what services you bring into the house.

If you don't have cable service, you have no problem, because local and network stations don't air explicit programs.

If you bring in basic service, you are less likely to be bringing in “hot” shows.

If you opt for movie channels, which offer a variety of, shall we say, interesting late-night programming, there are lock-out boxes that permit you to block certain channels. Check with your cable company to find out what devices are compatible with your service.

If your teen orders up a racy flick from the pay channel, talk to him about it. Curiosity may have gotten the better of him, and if he knows you're on to him, chances are it won't happen again. (You can also tell him to pay for the movie.)

Television exposes your family to people and experiences they would never meet without it. Viewing a ballet on an educational channel, learning about a world event on the news, or watching ski jumping on a sports program can be very exciting. But what about the values and practices your teen views that you don't agree with? You might like to stay in touch on that.

Though you don't want to turn this experience into a didactic one, or present your views as criticisms, you can use TV-watching as a time to discuss values. The next time you watch TV with your teen, consider using the following conversation-starters:

  • “Would any of your friends try something like that because it's supposed to be cool?”
  • “How come there aren't any black or ethnic people on this show?”
  • “Do you think he should have been treated that way just because he's gay?”
  • “It seems like only the beautiful, thin girls have boyfriends on this show.”

Commercials also offer excellent fodder for conversation:

  • “Do they expect us to believe that chewing that gum will improve our social life?”
  • “It seems like women in commercials always have to be beautiful, even if it has nothing to do with what they are selling. Why is that?”

You might even be able to get into some of the programs your teen loves. Then watching television together can be a pleasant activity that the two of you can share (at an age when she is probably too embarrassed to go to a movie with you), and it can offer a unique opportunity for conversation. By talking about your teen's TV passions and heroes, you'll have a better understanding of her culture—and a better understanding of your teen.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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