Stories about: TV

How can I find quality TV shows for my 7-year-old granddaughter?

Michael RichQ: My daughter just posted a plea on her Facebook wall asking for help finding quality TV shows for elementary-age girls (my granddaughter is 7). I know she has been frustrated by the shows her daughter currently watches, as she believes the female characters act cruelly to each other, and she’s concerned about how this kind of messaging affects her daughter. I think she is looking for both show recommendations and if there is a way that she, and other parents like her, can influence what is presented on TV.

~ iGranny, USA

A: Dear iGranny,

Your daughter’s question is one with which many parents struggle when searching for developmentally optimal content that features positive, inspiring role models with whom their children can relate. The issue becomes even deeper when specifically looking for positive portrayals of women and girls in children’s media, as female characters have historically been underplayed or portrayed as weak, sexualized or mean-spiritedly competitive with other female characters. Research has repeatedly shown that these portrayals of female characters can negatively influence how young girls view their bodies and gender roles, yet even today, these negative stereotypes can be found in many movies and TV shows.

You and your daughter are not alone in wanting to guide your granddaughter toward media that will be enlightening, empowering and uplifting for her. Although it may seem daunting, you have come to the right place – there are many practical steps you can take when seeking and selecting media for your granddaughter:

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How can we take a balanced approach to TV if my 2 year old asks for it constantly?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Q: My daughter comes home and the first thing she says is, “I want to watch Doc McStuffins.” We try to avoid TV during the week and let her watch it on the weekends. She is 2 now, but before this, she was not exposed to television. If we tell her we don’t watch TV during the week, she may get upset and say she doesn’t want to go to school. Should we be concerned?? I don’t want to make TV some “prized possession.” We want a balanced approach in our household. I just get concerned when I hear her freak out if we don’t want to put on her favorite show.

Doubting Doc in Norcross, GA

A: Dear Doubting,

The fact that your daughter asks for this show every time you come home probably means two things:

  1. She’s trying to master television viewing as an activity. She likely asks for this over and over the same way she might ask over and over for anything that is novel and, like television, a developmental stretch.

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When and how should I introduce screens to my 2½ year old?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Q: I have a 2½ year old, and so far, per the advice of our pediatrician, she has had no screen time. However, I have heard that educational television, such as Sesame Street, can be useful to offer in small doses after the age of two. My inclination is to continue not to offer her screen time, as I am worried that she will want to spend lots of time in front of screens (television, iPad, phone, etc.), and right now she spends most of her day reading, doing puzzles, and in imaginary play. At what point does it make sense to introduce screen time, and in what manner?

Mindful Mom, in Washington, DC

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My 5 year old is afraid of TV—what do I do?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

Q: My 5-year-old daughter does not like TV that involves conflict. She has no desire to see a Disney movie and even gets anxious when a kid gets lost on Veggie Tales. She’ll watch Blues Clues, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Barney but has no desire to watch the shows for her own age. When a movie is shown in CCD or Kindergarten, she gets anxious and sometimes starts crying. Will her inability to distinguish reality from fantasy resolve with age? Or is she an overly anxious, sensitive child?

-Facing Fear, in Chicago, IL

A: Dear Facing Fear,

It’s wonderful that you’re observing so closely how your child responds to the media she’s using. Every child is different. Knowing your daughter and watching her as closely as you do will help you make the best decisions for her.

Because children younger than 7 or 8 can’t reliably tell what’s real and what’s not, things that don’t seem scary to you or to older siblings may terrify them. Even though cartoons are marketed for young children, most aren’t really designed with their developmental stage in mind. Conflict and suspense sell tickets to adults, whose brains understand that it’s not real, but children experience these things in a much more direct and primal way.

Many kids are encouraged or learn to cover the anxiety that these images provoke. Your daughter may simply be more transparent in her responses than others her age, and even if she does seem more sensitive than other children, that can be positive, too.

In any case, it’s likely that her fear will resolve with time, but don’t push her to achieve this developmental milestone earlier than she’s ready. That would simply encourage her pretend she is not feeling what she is feeling, which will make her more anxious in the long run. In the meantime, ask teachers and other caregivers to find alternative activities for her rather than forcing her—and peers who may be better at hiding their anxiety—to view TV or videos that trigger her very normal stress response to anxiety-provoking images.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,

The Mediatrician®

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