Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

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Let your television be a tool in helping you protect impressionable viewers.


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The V-Chip
Let your television be a tool in helping you protect impressionable viewers.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageFor many families, an evening around the television set is the preferred way to wind down after a long day. Although the younger family members most likely have an early bedtime, there are still a few hours of family viewing time available before the little ones are off to bed. It's during this time that many parents have had the jaw-dropping experience of watching a program with the kids and suddenly hearing an unexpected "colorful" word or seeing a decidedly "adult" behavior depicted on screen. With very little getting by a child's observation, what follows next is either an instantaneous repetition of the latest addition to your child's vocabulary or moments of silence following your child's question, "Mommy, what are they doing?" Protecting your child from questionable adult material is an important responsibility and, although the broadcast networks censor material during family viewing hours, cable television networks and premium cable stations often air adult material at all viewing hours. With questionable programming ever-present, monitoring your child's viewing habits becomes a challenging process. Lying deep within your television set, however, lies a technology that parents may remember but may not be utilizing—the "V-chip."

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the V-chip technology was the result of a 1996 request by Congress for the broadcasting industry to establish a voluntary ratings system (much like the movie industry) for television. The Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the National Cable Television Association developed the system through a collaborative effort. The V-chip technology allows parents to block television programming they don't wish their children to watch. The whole system is geared around a television rating system consisting of six possible ratings. The FCC describes the ratings as:

  • TV-Y (All Children) used with children's shows and indicates that the programming is appropriate for all children.
  • TV-7 (Directed to Older Children) used with children's shows and indicates the show is most appropriate for children ages 7 and up.
  • TV-G (General Audience) means that the program is suitable for all ages but is not necessarily a children's show.
  • TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) means that the show may not be suitable for younger children and parental guidance is suggested.

This rating may also include an additional letter rating for specific content:

  • D for suggestive dialog
  • L for language
  • S for sexual situations
  • V for violence
  • TV-14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) means that the show may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14. The D, L, S, V letter ratings may also apply to a TV-14 rating.
  • TV-MA (Mature Audience) indicates that the show is for mature audiences only and may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17. The D, L, S, and V content ratings may also accompany a TV-MA rating.

A particular television program's rating will appear in the corner of the television screen during the first 15 seconds of the broadcast. All programming carries a rating except news, sports, and programming on premium cable channels (although many premium channels voluntarily provide a rating for their programming).

ImageSince January 1, 2000, the FCC has required all television sets, 13 inches or larger, to contain the V-chip. The television's packaging will indicate if the V-chip is present. If the packaging is long gone, the V-chip option will display through the television's menu of options. The V-chip reads rating information encoded in the rated program, enabling it to block selected material. Once you have verified that your television has V-chip technology, it's just a matter of a few parental clicks to activate the V-chip option and choose the rating levels you wish to block. Instructions for using the V-chip will be found on your television's on-screen menu guide or in the owner's manual for the television. A parental lock code (chosen by the adult programming the system) will keep curious children from accessing the programming locks and changing them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that children should spend no more than 2 hours per day watching television and movies or playing video or computer games. In addition, the AAP offers options for helping your kids practice good viewing habits:

  • Watch television with your children and talk about what they see.
  • Choose quality children's programming and DVDs by reading reviews.
  • Offer other entertainment options such as art, music, hobbies, or a sport.
  • Serve as a role model by limiting your own television viewing time and choosing programs carefully.

Granted, it is nearly impossible for parents to monitor everything that is said and done on television but with the help of the "V-chip", protecting those impressionable eyes and ears is made a bit easier.

Federal Communications Commission—
American Academy of Pediatrics—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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