How to Protect Your Children From Dangerous TV Shows

Because the latest technology is making it more and more difficult for parents to monitor what media their children are consuming, parents need to not only beware of the kind of shows that are being marketed to kids these days, but must be able to teach their children how to “filter” out the right from the wrong in what they’re watching.

According to Fox News, the Center for Media Literacy (CML), an educational watchdog group that seeks to help both parents and children become savvier media consumers, says that between iPods, smart phones and computers, it can be almost impossible to prevent kids from accessing shows with more sex, drugs and violence than parents want. But there’s hope! If children are taught correctly, they can learn how to filter out the garbage all by themselves.

“When kids have the skills they need to process and understand how media works, they are much better prepared to deal with whatever they come across,” Tessa Jolls, CML President, told “We do feel strongly that kids have to develop an internalized filtering system.”

The CML has devised five basic principals kids can be taught to apply to whatever television shows they are watching to help them put the content in the right perspective.

For instance, one of the most important principals is that what we see on TV isn’t real. This will go a long way in helping children to realize that the characters on Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant who are more worried about getting a new tattoo than caring for a baby are living in a fantasy land compared to the very real hardships endured by the average teen mother.

Another important principal is for children to understand that TV likes to portray some people as being more important than others and is often hopelessly biased in one direction or another.

“On the whole, TV presents a generally male and white perspective on the world and everyone else is less important and much more likely to get killed,” writes J. Francis Davis for the CML.

The solution? Talk back to your TV, he says “When you see something that you think is biased in whatever direction, add your own two cents, especially if your kids are around.”

Parents can also do their part by learning as much as they can about the current lineup of TV shows and do whatever they can to keep their children away from these shows. They should be sure to visit media watchdog websites on a regular basis, such as the Parents Television Council , Christian Spotlight on Entertainment,  and Focus on the Family’s Plugged In, to check out what’s new in movies, TV and video games.

According to these experts, the most dangerous TV shows currently on the air include:

Gossip Girl

This show has featured three-way sex scenes, teens visiting strip clubs and using casual drugs, all without depicting any consequences for these behaviors.  The danger is that it creates a false idea of what kind of life a teen should be experiencing.

Melissa Henson, the Director of Communications for the Parents Television Council, told Fox411. “Television is influential in the life of a teen because it sets a teen’s expectations of what is expected and what is normative,” said Melissa Henson, the Director of Communications for the Parents Television Council, to Fox411. “So when they see kids near their age engaging in this behavior, they begin to think it is normal.”

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

This ABC Family show, which was originally supposed to deliver a healthy message about the perils of teenage pregnancy, has strayed considerably from its earlier theme.

“When it was originally created it was intended to be a cautionary showing a teenage girl who gets pregnant the first time she has sex, but for something that is supposed to be a cautionary tale it plays like a soap opera. The issues simply are not dealt with in responsible ways on that show,” Henson says.

American Dad

Experts say any animated prime time TV shows should raise a red flag for parents. Just because shows like American Dad and Family Guy are cartoons, doesn’t mean they’re family fare.

“Those adult-themed cartoons often hit the lowest-common denominator of obnoxious, and offensive humor and sex and perversion are common themes,” said Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture for the Media Research Center.

American Horror Story

Recent plot lines on FX’s new sexy thriller American Horror Story have included finding jars filled with dead baby parts, vivid depictions of murder, nude scenes and sexual assaults. Even though the show has an MA rating, teens may tune in because it was made by Glee creator Ryan Murphy.

“Repeated exposure to bloody and dead bodies and specifically showing a criminal in the act of killing someone through time diminishes or eliminates the horror the viewer may have had (and the revulsion) upon the first viewing,” said Ellen Rittberg, the author of 5 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You So I Will.

Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant

Samantha Hernandez from 16 and Pregnant

These two shows normally run during daylight hours when kids are getting home from school and may not be supervised by their parents. Even though the shows are supposed to be presenting the difficulties of teen moms, the focus is usually on everything but the negative consequences of teen pregnancy.

“Most of the focus is on a fight the girls have with the baby daddy or whether Amber should get a new tattoo, not so much about how hard it is to take care of a baby. It is very appealing and very dangerous to teenagers for that reason,” Henson said.

The bottom line is that kids need to learn how to discern what they’re viewing in such a way that it won’t impact their behavior and their parents have to toughen up when it comes to policing their entertainment choices.

“The titles of these shows alone should be an alert to parents. Gossip GirlTeen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, etc. What possible messages can they convey? My point is: a parent’s job is to protect their children,” says Dr. Susan Newman, the author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It, and Mean it and Stop Pleasing People Forever.

“We have become such a culture of ‘yes parents’ that we can’t say no to them, not even to TV programs that may have limited or very little social value,” she said.

“Parents would be doing their offspring a great service by turning off the TV to questionable shows.”

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