Deciding what TV kids can watch

Last updated 11:31 01/10/2012

A couple of months ago, in a blog post about my favourite episodes of Fringe (the fourth season of which finishes this week on TV2*), there was a comment that surprised me - if you look at the post, check out comment #7, which finishes with this tidbit:

20121001"The episode "Bound" (01x11), with the giant flu virus, grossed my 12yr old son out, LOL"

To be honest, I was kind of shocked by the idea of a 12-year-old kid watching Fringe. I mean, I'm not saying this commenter is wrong or anything - every parent knows their own kids, and knows what they are able to handle watching - but my gut reaction was that Fringe was for an audience a little more mature than the average 12-year-old.

But then I started thinking about my own daughter, now 11 years 7 months old, and what she watches: we've watched The Avengers together (she is a big Hulk fan), she is quite fond of JJ Abrams' Super 8, and we've recently started watching episodes of Lost together - and when I think about it, those probably aren't much better than Fringe.

So what are the guidelines in this kind of thing? Is there a right and a wrong way to decide what your kids can watch?

One thing I do know: I don't trust the ratings dictated by the networks, or rulings by the BSA, to help me determine what my daughter can watch when she is in my care. Too often the ratings are wrong - some shows marked PG aren't actually suitable for kids, while some marked AO aren't necessarily inappropriate, in the same way that not every movie marked "M" isn't unsuitable for her.

There are a few channels and shows that are fine. I'm not worried about my daughter watching Nickelodeon or Disney Channel unsupervised, though I've stopped a few shows based purely on the fact that I think they are mind-rottingly bad; Big Time Rush and Victorious are banned in our house - they are just horrible shows and complete wastes of time - even more so than most programmes on those channels.

However, anything in prime time is normally either checked ahead of time (I feel comfortable with my daughter watching Lost because I know there isn't much that will scare, shock or traumatise her ... I mean, aside from Nikki and Paolo showing up in Season 3) or I'll watch it with her for the first couple of weeks.

This practice of being involved in what she is watching also has a pleasant side effect: by watching television with my daughter, I've learnt what she likes and enjoys most. This means I've been able to recommend a few of the tamer Doctor Who episodes, which we've been able to watch and enjoy together.

Television: bringing families together!

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts on this. It seems to me that there is no right or wrong way to deal with kids and television. In fact, most times it will depend on each individual child and what they can handle. I just know that I don't have any solid answers, and I'm willing to listen to what you reckon.

What do you think: how do you decide what your kids can or cannot watch on television? Are there any methods or guidelines you follow to figure it out? And what is the most grown-up show your kids watch? Alternatively, if you don't have kids, what do you think might be the best way?

(*) The fifth season started last week in the USA. I mention this purely because I'm sure that, if I don't, somebody else will.

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ben   #1   12:00 pm Oct 01 2012

Hey Chris.. hope you are enjoying your looking forward to reading my blog next week! LOL. My son is only 3, however when he is older, I will def take time to watch TV with him and take an interest in all his shows. Currently it is Thomas the Tank Engine and Fireman Sam! haha. If he was 12 thouggh, I would encorage him to watch Fringe with me, purely for the humour of Walter!!!!

lulu   #2   12:29 pm Oct 01 2012

I do not understand why Jeremy Kyle is always taken off tv2 in the school holidays. if anything it promotes consequences and actions if responsibility isn't taken in relationships. It is up to the parents to monitor and decide what programmes their children should be allowed to watch. Other grown ups should not be penalised or responsible for what other peoples kids get up to. After all if everything else fails the parents can always use the child lock button or the off switch but please don't deprive other people from watching their favourite programmes.

ScottJ   #3   12:55 pm Oct 01 2012

My parents simply worked on a time basis. If it was on before my bedtime I could watch it, and most of the time they had no idea what I was viewing. But now there's so many young demographic shows its impossible for parents to be across everything anyway. So I'd partly leave it up to the kids themselves. Kids are surprisingly discriminating little viewers and most will not tolerate too much boring rubbish for too long.

Its also very difficult to work out with some shows just who the target audience is. I'd be very reluctant to let young persons watch, say, anything from the Cartoon Network as shows like Adventure Time are quite subversive at times. And even after watching some of it myself I still have no idea who its aimed at.

British shows are just as tricky, although probably in a different ways. There was one episode of Sarah Jane Adventures where I just about sprayed my coffee around the room wondering if I'd misheard. But then the British are very good at including things for different audiences.

Julie   #4   12:57 pm Oct 01 2012

That comment was ME!!! (thanks for the quote, lol) There's not a lot I dont let my kids (12 & 15) watch (but Family Guy is top of my No-Watch list).

Anything overly sexual is a no-go, but with violence, I let them decide. If its too gross, the younger one will probably avert his eyes anyway. They're old enough to know that its not 'real', and usually comment on how bad the SFX are.

andrew   #5   01:27 pm Oct 01 2012

hope he didnt let his kids watch!!!

DrH   #6   02:34 pm Oct 01 2012

wooo... can of worms time .... What it comes down to, like anything with kids, is for the parents to be INVOLVED. I'm not saying all tv must be watched together, but that parents need to know what's being watched. I'm perfectly ok with my boys watching anything on the discovery/history/national geographic channels, but they know they can't watch CI, or the comedy channel.

They're 9 & 11, they think Dr Who is fantastic, they look forward to The Amazing Race, they record & series link anything with James May or Richard Hammond in it, I think my next few years will get tougher as I try to work my way through the adolescent years where they think they're old enough to watch things that aren't suitable, and I think they're NOT old enough to watch things that are :/

Graeme Edgeler   #7   02:45 pm Oct 01 2012

lulu - I don't know that I've ever seen Jeremy Kyle, but if any of the shows are AO, then they're not permitted to be shown in that time slot during school holidays:

From the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice:

"PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.

AO programmes may be screened between midday and 3pm on weekdays (except during school and public holidays as designated by the Ministry of Education) and after 8.30pm until 5am."

Selena   #8   04:46 pm Oct 01 2012

I like to think we're pretty liberal with what we let our kids watch (3.5 and 6.5), that said I don't let them aimless watch tv day in and day out. If we need wind down tv it's Disney Junior as I find a lot of programming on the others is pretty trashy or lots of battling which always encourages interesting behaviour in younger kids! We've let the 6.5 year old watch the first transformers movie then said that we'd record the second for him and let him know if it was ok for him to watch, well he didn't get to see it but he understood and didn't argue with us about our decision, same goes for Dr Who, we watch it and decide if he gets to watch it later, he didn't see much of last season at all but this season is doing well so far.

I agree with your comment on ratings, each child is different and reacts differently to things so a little bit of shared or prewatching is a good idea. If we prewatch we usually watch it together as it's usually something we enjoy so want to watch again anyway.

Amalia   #9   09:59 pm Oct 01 2012

I have to agree. I unfortunately caught a part of "Billy T - the best bits"*, which, in a segment that aired at 7:10pm, had Billy and some backup singers singing The Rodeo Song, which contains liberal use of the F word, and the word "gook" which is more than a little racist.

The show was rated M, which is appropriate, but I wonder how many parents make use of their parental controls.

At 7:10pm, it's entirely possible that kids around the 6, 7, 8 year-old range could have seen it.

Here's a link: NSFW.

Here's the thing though - Fringe has visual weirdness, and maybe even a bit gory, but it doesn't have any real swearing, and I think a 12-yr-old could handle the horror elements. It's fairly tame in that respect. (A six year old? No way. But 12 - seems okay to me.)

But that Billy T bit? Definitely 15+.

fiona   #10   07:59 am Oct 02 2012

The other way of looking at Jeremy Kyle- all the losers seem to get all the attention, Cartoon network is not favoured in our house,adventure time is not a programme for kids, 11 is differcult age-they are PG, -you have to think about and monitor what they are watching,-and there is not much to choose from,

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