With so much obscene content on TV these days, even in family programs, the need to monitor what your children watch cannot be over-emphasized. But, how best can you do this? Some little children have this habit of either looking away or covering their eyes with their palms and often, amused parents think that’s more than enough. Is it really?
Child Sexual Abuse/Sexuality Education Expert, Ololade Hector-Fowobaje, says, “asking your child to look away or covering her eyes is not really helpful because she may have already seen the bad part. It is really like accidentally walking into an area full of smoke, inhaling a whiff of it and then covering your nose.
You have already inhaled the smoke. So, it only partly limits the negative exposure and even gets some children curious. The best parents can do is to regulate their children’s media diet as even some cartoons are worrisome. They can only play a regulatory role to minimize negative exposure or ditch the TV; which would be extreme.”
So, what exact measures should you take then? Find 5 recommended tips below…
1. Ensure the cable TV you get has parental control options and use it to restrict what they watch. In addition, ensure your children watch only what is rated for their age(s) even at the cinemas. Viewing for a 5-year-old will be rated G or PG for general and parental guidance respectively.
For cable TV, parental control features are so many; you can control age limits, block channels, schedule their TV hours/days and many more.
2. Screen DVDs and their favourite programmes before they watch because family programmes and even cartoons are not exempted from these indecencies. So, screen as much as possible. Let them know what they can and cannot watch; make it a rule in the house and ensure compliance. Explain the reasons for your actions even if they don’t buy them. It is crucial they know you are trying to protect them from danger.
3. Also, when you are away from home, ensure whoever looks after your children is on the same page with you regarding their media consumption. If you cannot vouch for such a person, then you may want to block suspicious and guilty channels and lock up the DVD player. Field experience has shown that children left with maids are exposed to more toxicity on TV as they could care less that such content is inappropriate for the child.
4. When adults are watching programmes rated 18, be sure to keep young children occupied elsewhere with fun and healthier alternatives like outdoor play and some other hobbies.
5. Experts have also advised that televisions, computer and video games should not be in the children’s bedroom to control viewing and use. In addition, TV consumption should not be more than one or two hours on weekdays and a few more at the weekend for young children.
Older children in secondary school can do without TV from Monday to Thursday; or just an hour daily on those days. To shape their preferences, teach by example; model the love for educational programmes by watching educational channels sometimes, like discovery, animal planet and history. Probably only two out of ten children know the number of those channels by heart because they hardly view them.
With all these in place, I believe the negative exposure will be minimized. As you endeavour to watch TV with your children regardless of their age, seize teachable moments and counteract negative information to the level of their understanding, but it may be harder with very young children.
This is a good reason why basic age-appropriate sexuality education should start early enough (get tips here); your child has to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Tell her about her private parts and how she must protect them from predators, including siblings.