Program Patrol: Strategies to Monitor Your Child’s TV Consumption


As television shows become more graphic and technology unveils easier ways to view them, a parents' task to monitor their children's TV intake has become more challenging. According to the Orthodox Church in America, the average American child watches approximately  25 to 30 hours of television weekly. This study determined that, by the age of eighteen, these children had viewed close to 15,000 hours of television! They also had spent only 11,000 hours in the classroom.  This study revealed that students perform worse when they watch TV in excess.

Limiting TV exposure is harder than ever, but resources have emerged for parents who want to protect their children.

Monitoring Technology

Cable providers have caught up to the demand for parental controls. Modern DVR systems give parents the ability to block channels and limit the amount of time kids spend in front of the TV. For example,Time Warner cable at gives you the ability to add a password protection to any show that has a rating that is not appropriate for your kids. With parental controls, you'll be able to protect your children from material intended for mature audiences and prevent them from becoming TV zombies.

Computer Blocks

TV monitoring technology used to be enough to control what programs your children watched, but television has gone viral. Sites like and offer streaming movies and television on demand, making your parenting responsibilities that much more difficult. Parents can block websites through their Internet preferences. For a more hands-on tactic, parents can install monitoring software that records their child's Internet activity. However, since your children or teenagers will likely see such software as a violation of trust, you might want to keep your computers in in a family room or living room. If there's a chance you could walk by at any moment, your child will be less likely to watch inappropriate content.

Old Fashioned Rules

Limiting TV consumption comes down to parents getting involved in kids' lives. Set ground rules for kids that limit the amount of time they can watch TV, and when they don't turn the TV off, do it yourself. Some parents draft technology contracts to give kids a clear understanding of expectations. YourSphere, a blog for parents, suggests that you consider offering incentives for more TV time, such as finishing homework, bringing home a good test score or completing chores. Oftentimes, children zone out on the couch because it's the best option. Provide alternatives to get your kids off the couch. Whether they're competing in sports, learning dance or taking art classes, activities that get kids active promote success.

Join In

If you  want to keep tabs on what your kids are watching on TV, make some popcorn and watch it with them. In years past, families gathered around the TV to bond. Share your opinions about "American Idol" singers or cheer on your local sports team. Watching TV as a family provides a great opportunity to have fun with your kids and monitor their TV consumption without seeming overbearing.

April Robinson is a guest blogger for The Children's Workshop.  She is a dedicated stay-at-home mom and freelance writer who shares her experiences with pregnancy and parenting.