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Parental controls: What are your kids watching?

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Wonder what your kids are watching on TV?Many shows on television, whether on broadcast or cable networks, are for adult eyes only. Like with their use of the Internet, there are a variety of different ways you can keep your children from stumbling across explicit or violent content.

 

Television

As parents are well aware, the Internet isn’t the only place where kids can be exposed to inappropriate content. Many shows on television, whether on broadcast or cable networks, are for adult eyes only. Like the Internet, there are a variety of different ways you can keep your children from stumbling across explicit or violent content.

Since 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required that all televisions larger than 13 inches be equipped with what’s called a V-chip. A V-chip lets parents and caregivers block programming that they don’t want children to watch. All television programs are assigned a rating according to a system established by the television industry, which appears onscreen during the first 15 seconds of the program. The rating is encoded with the program before it airs. Parents can use their television set’s remote control to program the V-chip to block programs that carry certain ratings. The current rating system deems what’s appropriate as follows:

  • TV-Y: All children.
  • TV-Y7: Children 7 and up.
  • TV-G: General audience - suitable for children and adults.
  • TV-PG: Parental guidance suggested - violence, sexual situations, coarse language and/or suggestive dialogue.
  • TV-14: Parents strongly cautioned - intense violence, sexual situations, coarse language and/or suggestive dialogue.
  • TV-MA: Mature Audience Only - graphic violence, explicit sexual content and/or offensive language.

For more information on the V-chip, including specific instructions on how to program your V-chip at home, visit the FCC guide by clicking here.

Cable and satellite TV programming

If your family has cable television, you have even more options on how to block access to programs you deem too mature for young eyes. Almost all cable and satellite providers give you an option of creating a PIN you can use to block programs in three different ways:

  • by channel
  • by rating
  • by time period

Depending on your service provider, you may also have the option of blocking specific programs (by date, time, and channel), adult titles in programming guides, and movies that receive certain MPAA ratings on premium movie channels.

For example, Verizon FIOS TV and AT&T U-verse allow users to

  • Selectively block programming by channel or rating.
  • Selectively block Pay-Per-View and On Demand purchases.
  • Set up user-defined PINs (to purchases and block programs.)
  • Hide adult programming from the TV Listings.

For more detailed information, visit the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s site on getting started with parental controls.