Which May Make One Wonder Why Parents Even Own Television Sets

If a person harmed children in all the ways that television does (according to parents), he’d end up in jail for life. A survey commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation quantifies the laments parents have about how that medium influences their offspring. (The polling was conducted among parents of kids age 2-17.)

Sixty percent of the parents said they’re very concerned that their kids are exposed to too much sexual content in the TV shows they watch. (How much do you suppose would be exactly enough?) Somewhat fewer of them expressed similar concern about violent content (53 percent) and adult language (49 percent). It’s not just that parents find such material distasteful as viewing material for children. Fifty-three percent believe exposure to sexual content on TV contributes “a lot” to children becoming “involved in sexual situations before they’re ready.” Along the same lines, 44 percent feel televised violence contributes a lot to violent behavior in kids. Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder that 63 percent of parents “favor new regulations to limit sex and violence in TV content during early evening.” Nor are they inclined to give cable a free pass: 52 percent “believe cable TV should be subject to the same content standards as broadcast TV.”

As if the shows weren’t bad enough, parents think commercials contribute to television’s malign influence on their children. Indeed, they see a direct link between commercials and the crummy diet that’s making so many kids fat these days. Forty-nine percent said commercials exert a lot of influence over kids’ “food choices and eating habits.” Thirty-three percent said their own kids often ask them to buy grocery items after having seen them touted on TV. (And somehow one suspects they’re not talking about the stores’ healthier inventory.) Thirty-seven percent of the parents go so far as to favor restricting ads for junk food on children’s TV shows.

On the plus side, doesn’t TV at least help to educate little kids? Parents have their doubts. Asked how much TV “helps young children start school ready to learn,” just 11 percent of respondents said it helps a lot. Among parents of kids age 2-13, just 12 percent said they’re very satisfied with “the number and quality of educational TV shows available for their children to watch.” Despite all these opinions on television’s ruinous influence, parents keep their kids surrounded by the medium. Fifteen percent report having bought a new TV this year; another 39 percent have bought a new set since the beginning of 2002. And 17 percent have a TV or DVD player in the vehicles they use for transporting their kids.