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Television Literacy and Critical Viewing Skills

The following suggestions are offered by the National Institute of Mental Health for increasing television literacy and viewing competency among children and adolescents.

One set of skills includes helping young people to:

1) Understand the various types of television programming and how programs are created;

2) Learn what aspects of a program are real and what are fantasy;

3) Learn the purpose and types of commercials;

4) Understand how television influences our feelings and ideas;

5) Become more aware of television as a source of information and how stereotypes are used;

6) Understand the difference between violence on television and violence in real life;

7) Become more aware of personal viewing habits;

8) Identify the significance of television in one’s own life.

Some ways parents can contribute to more effective TV viewing skills with children include:

1) Monitoring the amount and number of hours of television exposure;

2) Supervising viewing and deciding what can and cannot be seen;

3) Viewing television with children and discussing what is seen;

4) Engaging children in alternative family activities;

5) Encouraging purposeful viewing, i.e. selecting specific, special programs;

6) Offering direct mediation, i.e. explanatory comments about what occurs on TV;

7) Offering indirect mediation, i.e. parents themselves model critical viewing skills by discussing program pros and cons;

8) Using television as a springboard for applying information to other situations.

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Maurine B. Doerken M.S., M.A., M.F.T.

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