Don’t Be Fooled By TV Ratings On Your Kids Television Programs

Most families rely heavily on TV ratings when it comes to appropriate programs for their children to watch. They trust that “kids” channels will broadcast limited to no violent content and rarely feel a need to monitor those programs. According to a study published in March of 2009 TV ratings don’t accurately reflect aggressive content leaving your child viewing interactions you may otherwise disprove of.

The study was conducted by Jennifer Linder, associate professor of psychology at Linfield; and Douglas Gentile, assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State. It was published online in the March/April issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and was the first to link viewing TV verbal aggression a child’s resulting verbal aggression by comparing television programs children viewed and reports on their behavior from their teachers.

The researchers looked at television programs with ratings TV-Y7 (for ages 7 and up) and TV-G or TV-PG (general audience). They found that shows with ratings of TV-Y7 actually contained more violence than those for general audiences.

Gentile said, “The ratings do not provide information about other types of aggression, such as verbal or indirect aggression.” The types of aggression he is referring to here are any non-physical actions that intend harm like rumor spreading, social exclusion and ignoring.

What does this mean for today’s families?

For parents who are trying to screen potentially violent programs from their children of any ages this study provides evidence for a need to screen “kids” programming as well. We can’t rely on ratings alone to determine if a program is teaching our children appropriate behavior.

When choosing between shows you may want to be on the look out for:

  • Shows that promote social isolation as a means of getting their way
  • Programs that minimize the affects of verbal bullying in schools
  • Labels of FV (fantasy violence) since these shows may contain excessive violent content
  • Programs that portray children disrespecting authority “in good humor”

Don’t assume that because a show airs on the kids channel that it is appropriate for your child to view. When viewing a program with your child is not feasible ask questions about the program and how your child felt about it. Most importantly, go with your gut. If you think the program is teaching your child bad behaviors then don’t let them watch it. You don’t need a rating to tell you if your child is learning inappropriate behaviors.