Page 1



Kids, Media and Values:

A Wake-Up Call


very minute a child watches TV or surfs the Web, she’s learning something. The question is: What is she learning? Our kids are learning about violence. They’re forming lifestyle habits that will last a lifetime, and learning about smoking…drug and alcohol use…eating and dieting. Sex. Sales pitches. Stereotypes. Kids are soaking it all in. And we all pay the price. Parents and grandparents, teachers and neighbors—we all want children’s interactions with TV and the Web to be time well spent. We want TV and online content that opens young minds, sparks creativity, and sets children on a path to healthy lifelong learning. Being a parent is the most important job in the world. But with more and more media choices springing up all the time, it’s a job that’s not getting any easier. This kit is designed to put the resources you need at your fingertips, helping you use TV and the Web to benefit your child and your family.

M of all US infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of two hours a day.

68% of American kids have TVs in their bedrooms, and 63% live in homes where TV is usually on during mealtimes. 8- to 18-year-olds in America spend 6K hours a day watching TV, DVDs, or videos—or going online.

Get involved. Get online.


Generation “M” M

edia have a huge impact on how kids think and act. Young people in America spend more time watching television than in school. Computers and video games occupy nearly seven times as much of their day as reading books. Texting and instant messaging…iPods…YouTube… Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites. Media use among young people is on the rise. Two-thirds of parents surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation say they are very concerned about the amount of inappropriate media content children in this country are exposed to. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is issuing record-breaking fines for indecency and inadequate educational content. The Parents Television Council reports that violence and gruesome content are increasing on TV. And experts are sounding the alarm about possible links to obesity, early sexual activity, and attention deficit disorders.

By age 18, young people have viewed an estimated

200,000 acts of violence on TV. A child graduating from high school will have witnessed

40,000 murders on TV.

Only 1 in 8 children’s programs rated E / I (educational/informational) by commercial TV stations actually meets “high-quality standards.”

1 in 4 is, in fact, “minimally educational.”

Get involved. Get online.


Kids for Sale T

he more time young people spend with commercial media, the greater their exposure to advertising. Studies find a clear correlation between greater media consumption among children and adverse health outcomes, including obesity, tobacco use, and unhealthy sexual behavior. Researchers also draw a strong link to drug and alcohol use as well as low academic achievement. As troubling as what kids are seeing is what they’re finding in short supply on TV and the Internet. Programs and websites with a strong educational core. Positive role models. Diversity and inclusion. TV and the Web should offer all that, and more. And they can.

Kids in the United States see

40,000 TV commercials

each year.

Youth exposure to alcohol ads on TV

increased by 30% from 2001 to 2006.

Half of the ads for junk food, sugary cereals, and soft drink are on children’s TV—double the number seen 30 years ago.

Get involved. Get online.


What’s at Stake C

an we—as a community, as a nation—afford kids’ media that doesn’t help us advance our children’s educational potential? Not at a time when our national and local resources are more strained than ever. Consider these facts: • Each year, the United States spends $2 billion on students forced to repeat a grade because of reading problems. • Between 2000 and 2006, the US was ranked 25th in math, internationally, and 21st in science. • Funding for school libraries and the media specialists who staff them is declining. Nationally, library expenditures per pupil decreased from $19 in 2000 to $11 in 2007. Massachusetts has seen a 36% cut in statewide inter-library loan services since 2001. • A student drops out of high school every 26 seconds in the US—1.1 million students in a single year. Boston students are graduating at a rate of only 57%. Every Massachusetts high school dropout, over a lifetime, costs the state $275,000 in health, housing, employment, and criminal justice expenses. In the US that adds up to $200 billion a year in lost productivity and tax revenue.

What should TV and the Web be doing for our children? Teaching reading and vocabulary skills. Whetting the appetite for science, engineering, history, and math. Enlisting active participation in protecting the environment. Fostering respect and tolerance. Leveling the playing field so that all children have a chance to succeed—including girls, minorities, and kids with disabilities. That’s where public media comes in.

Get involved. Get online.



Not a Four-Letter Word


edia isn’t a bad word. The right choice can make all the difference.

In today’s crowded, 500-plus TV channel universe and ever-expanding new-media world, there is a place families can turn for entertaining educational content—on air and online—that’s proven to help children thrive. For the fifth year in a row, the American public has ranked PBS the most trustworthy institution in the country. And with good reason. Public broadcasting’s children’s series, websites, and grassroots interactive activities are curriculumbased, developed in consultation with subject experts and academic advisors, and tied to key national and state standards.

And every production—from Arthur to Sesame Street to Zoom—is designed to tackle an important K-12 educational challenge: in literacy, math, science, engineering, and more. But this isn’t “eat your spinach” programming. PBS works with the best TV and Web producers in the country to create award-winning entertainment—built on a strong educational foundation—that kids love to watch and interact with, and that parents, caregivers, and teachers appreciate. Public broadcasting delivers this content not only on the air and online, but directly to communities across the country. Program producers and local PBS stations create strong and far-reaching partnerships with mission-congruent organizations—libraries, afterschool programs, professional groups—that effectively reach children, families, and educators, especially those in underserved areas.

At a time when budgets are tight, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman provides schools with inexpensive, hands-on opportunities for science learning.

71% of surveyed kids participating in Fetch! afterschool clubs report they “never” or “rarely” do hands-on science activities in school.

More than 1,000,000 teachers, home schoolers, afterschool providers, librarians, and parents use PBS online guides and educational materials every year.

Kindergarten kids who watch Between the Lions score a whopping 21% higher on reading ability than kids who don’t watch.

Nova is the single most used video resource in high school classrooms in the entire United States. Get involved. Get online.


Parent Power C

hildren’s television has come a long way since the days of Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo. And so has technology. But the fundamental concerns of parents and caregivers remain the same: We want what’s best for our kids. Just as with a child’s diet and homework habits, establishing a healthy “screen time” routine is something we have to work at. Simply turning the TV or computer on, or off, isn’t enough. There’s lots more we can do to assure that the time kids spend with media is not only fun but productive, stimulating, and safe.

The Preschool Years Media time for preschoolers is like chocolate: a delicious pleasure in small portions. But consuming too much can be dangerous. And watching TV and using a computer should be an active experience rather than a passive one. • Avoid programs/websites that show characters resolving conflict with violence, or that could frighten your child. • Make it clear that cartoon characters do things humans cannot. • Ask lots of questions as your child uses the computer or watches TV. • Introduce your child to media that fan her creativity.

All Ages

• Get your child playing electronic games alongside others.

• Be choosy about TV and Web content. Check reviews. Preview content.

• Find opportunities for your son or daughter to make decisions and try something new.

• Exercise remote control! Learn about the ratings system for parental guideline (see “Get Resourceful”). Consider DVDs, home videos, and on-demand options that allow you to decide what to watch when, and let you pause for discussion. And don’t forget the V-chip option.

• Keep one child or group from dominating program choices.

• Whenever possible, watch TV and visit websites with your child. • Prevent TV and the Web from replacing family time and active play. • Use kids’ media to enhance reading, listening, and vocabulary skills. • Stock your TV and computer areas with other temptations: books, toys, puzzles, and board games. • Keep TVs and computers off during meals. And think about whether they belong in your child’s bedroom. • Treat media as a privilege to be earned, not a right. • Set a good example in your own media use—how you balance time on the computer or in front of the TV with reading, spending time with others, exercising, and so forth.

Making the Grade Once kids enter grade school, their universe expands. So do their media choices. • Ask questions about what your child sees and hears, why he likes certain characters, etc. • Inspire her to create images of her own, or recast TV/Internet information in her own words. • Make a game of “close viewing” (listen for accents, watch for product placements and the like). • Familiarize your child with the librarians at your local branch. • Stress the importance of online safety, and introduce kid-friendly search engines and directories. • Help your child scrutinize online sources of information.

Get involved. Get online.


Tweens and Teens A

s kids get older they often seem more interested in what their friends—or their Hollywood heroes— have to say. That doesn’t mean they’re not listening, or absorbing your own priorities and attitudes. You still have a crucial role to play in guiding your son or daughter, discussing media choices, and setting limits. The more you encourage your older child to question how and why a TV program or website came about, the more evolved her understanding of reality can become.

Tweens and Screens

Teens and More Screens

• Help your preteen develop critical responses to what she sees on TV or the Web.

• Help your teen become a critical media consumer.

• Talk about the strong link between media and advertising. • Inspire your child to do, not just watch. • Find out what your preteen thinks is real. • Have suggestions ready when he complains, “There’s nothing to do!” • Have your family take a break from media. • Help your child understand that not all sites are created equal, and show him how to evaluate a website. • Discourage your preteen from sharing personal information online. • Help set limits on TV and computer time.

• Talk about TV’s “tricks of the trade” and about the influence of advertising, on the air and online. • Discuss the impact of media on your teen’s self image. • Talk about how media coverage shapes our understanding of the world. • Help her question what she sees. • Encourage your teen to visit multiple sources about the same topic, and talk about the types of online information. • Guide your teen to question all websites—including health information—and to be skeptical about sources. • Help your child create Web content, not just consume it: upload photographs, post opinions, maintain online journals and profiles, blog…all in safe and healthy ways.

Get involved. Get online.


Wake-Up Call Worksheet

Take the KIDS MEDIA MATTERS Challenge How much is your family watching TV and using the computer? Tracking your family’s use over the course of a week or a month may be eye-opening. Here’s a handy chart you can photocopy, post, and share as you measure your media consumption. Don’t forget to measure the time TV is on in the background! Date




Video games

Total # hours

Once you learn more about your family’s habits, ask yourself:

Visit to:

• Do you feel like TV or video games took too much time away from talking together or otherwise interacting as a family?

• Find tips for turning TV into an active experience, gaining control over the viewing, and getting back your family time.

• Do we turn the TV on because “there’s nothing else to do”? Is the TV often on and part of the background noise in our home?

• Share strategies with other families who are dealing with the same issues.

• Are we active or passive viewers? Does what we’re seeing become a springboard for conversation, family activities, and other connections?

• Compare and share your family’s experience.

• Send this kit to 10 family members or friends to get the conversation started about this important issue.

• Is most of the viewing happening in individual bedrooms? If so, is that taking away from time that could be spent together as a family? • Should we trim back our media consumption? Do I feel as though we let media control our time, instead of us controlling it?

Get involved. Get online. 8

Kids, Media and Values: What Are We Learning? Turn your efforts to tame media mania in your home into a fun activity for all ages. Examine the TV shows your family watches, the websites you visit, the video games you play, and so forth. Then, have a conversation about what you’re learning. What it is

You’ll be better equipped to gauge what’s time well spent…what’s just for fun…and what habits might be worth reassessing. Just fill in this chart!

What it teaches

Why it's important

Example: Curious George

Science, math, engineering

Success in school

Example: Nova

Science, technology

Career options

Example: From the Top at Carnegie Hall

Music appreciation; hard work pays off!

Appreciating the arts


Environmental strategies

A greener planet

Get involved. Get online. 9

What You Can Do Y

ou are not alone. Two-thirds of parents

surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation say they are very concerned about the amount of inappropriate content children in this country are exposed to. Nearly a quarter report that dealing with inappropriate content is one of the top concerns they face as a parent. Decide that you are ready to speak up, speak out, and take action! Send this kit to 10 family members and friends to get the conversation started.

Easy (and green!) ways to share the kit: • Go to and click on “Share this Kit,” or click on “Share” in the email you received when you signed up for the kit. • Spread the word on Facebook from • Take the Kids Media Matters Challenge—track your media use for one week. • Report back on about how your week went, and share strategies with other families.

• Learn more about the real choices public media provides for children. Sign up for more information at • Monitor what your child is exposed to outside your home. Talk to other parents about their views on TV and computers, and their practices. • Compare notes on kid-friendly recommendations with other parents and caregivers. • Brainstorm with friends, neighbors, and other parents about fair-weather activities that get kids out of the house and interacting with one another (like you used to). • Broaden your child’s play-date horizons. • Get advice from your child’s teachers, doctors, and other pivotal partners. • Organize a PTA group (community group, daycare parents, etc.) to share experiences and advice about TV and computers. • Become a Kids’ Media Advocate. Create your personal fundraising page at to help support the WGBH Kids Media Fund, and to spread the word. • Support the WGBH Kids Media Fund.

61% of all US children 8 and older report that their families have no rules about TV watching.

44% of children and teens report watching different programs when their parents are not around. The best indicator of a child’s future success in school is the educational level of the parents.

Children in 114,000 Massachusetts families have a parent who cannot read aloud to them. Get involved. Get online.


Get Resourceful! T

here are a lot of good resources out there for parents and everyone who cares about children: research, media and educational expertise, and practical tips. Here’s just the tip of the information iceberg. Find even more at Center on Media and Child Health A collaboration of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health helping parents, teachers, and researchers learn more about guiding young people to use media in safe and healthy ways.

Common Sense Media A non-profit, non-partisan organization offering parents advice on how to manage media, plus product reviews and recommendations for pre-K through high school kids.

KidSmart Guide to Early Learning and Technology “Digital comic strips” offer advice to parents on how to integrate computers into early learning at home, how to make sure the computer serves your child’s best interests, and more.

PBS Parents Children and Media Discover how TV, movies, advertising, computers, and video games shape your child’s development and what you can do to create a media-literate household.

Project Dropout According to The Education Trust, the US is now the only industrialized country where youths are less likely than their parents to earn a high school diploma. In Boston, the high school dropout rate is an eye-popping 43%. WGBH and WBUR’s collaborative multimedia resource fights this “silent epidemic.”

WGBH Kids Rich websites for kids’ PBS favorites, from Curious George to Design Squad to Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. Games, videos, music, and more, plus information for parents and educators—from TV schedules to learning tips to fun family events around town.

WGBH Parents’ Page Easy-to-use media guides, searchable by topic, plus sign-ups for WGBH’s Kids & Family Club and free e-news. Dig deeper ( for thousands of helpful teaching and learning resources, including lessons for home schoolers and K-12 classrooms.

Get involved. Get online.


WGBH and Kids W

GBH’s very first TV broadcast, back in 1955, was a kids’ show, and serving young people and those who care for them remains a top priority—on the air, on the Web, and out in the community. As a local public broadcaster, we offer New Englandarea audiences three radio services and 11 TV services—including WGBH 2, WGBH 44, ‘GBH Kids, and Boston Kids & Family TV. Across those four services, WGBH provides 300 hours of nutritious children’s fare. Nationally, we’re proud to be PBS’s number one producer of prime-time programs, Web content, and children’s favorites. Early WGBH productions for kids include Degrassi Junior High, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, and Zoom. These days we’re winning Emmys for shows like Arthur, Curious George, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, Between the Lions, and Design Squad.

And having pioneered TV captioning for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as Descriptive Video Service (DVS®) for blind and low-vision audiences, WGBH is committed to assuring that our TV and Web productions serve and reflect the interests of all Americans.

“WGBH and PBS are here to provide a real alternative to the commercial marketplace—to create mission-driven, curriculum-based, engaging programs that truly help children grow. We’re grateful for the support of those who look to public media to ignite kids’ imagination, touch their hearts, and tackle their very pressing needs.” Brigid Sullivan WGBH Vice President for Children’s Programming

“WGBH has been a beacon of light for the entire country for many, many years. Its consistent record of excellence and illuminating programming is unmatched in all of television.” Joan Ganz Cooney Sesame Street creator, children’s television pioneer

“WGBH has always led the charge to realize the educational potential of public media, on both TV and the Internet. Nowhere else are such committed, knowledgeable, talented media shapers working so hard on behalf of our children, our communities, and the very future of our nation.” Peggy Charren Founder, Action for Children’s Television 12

Get involved. Get online.

About the

WGBH Kids Media Fund


GBH relies heavily on the generosity of the public we serve—the contributions of everyday people who care about using media to do what is best for children. At a time when much of children’s media embraces hard-sell commercials and animated violence—and when increasing numbers of young people are absorbing TV and websites with inappropriate adult content—we think kids’ media should provide a safe haven for youngsters. We know that we can’t change violent, commercial-driven media. But we can fight to help WGBH give kids and families other choices.  

You Can Make a Difference WGBH has created the WGBH Kids Media Fund to give people who care about what children see, hear, and learn the chance to do something about it. This fund will ensure that young people of all ages are exposed to stimulating new ideas in the safe, nurturing environment that public broadcasting provides.

WGBH has built its reputation on producing the highest-quality programs for children. Now, with your help, the WGBH Kids Media Fund will allow us to research, develop, and produce outstanding programs that continue to set the standard for what children’s media should be. Every dollar you contribute to the WGBH Kids Media Fund will make a real difference in the lives of millions of children every single day. Please contribute generously.

How to Help Visit to contribute online. Call us at 617 . 300 . 3300 (weekdays 9am-5pm). Mail your gift to: WGBH Kids Media Fund One Guest Street Boston, MA 01235.

WGBH productions for children are available in virtually every American household, regardless of income. And not just on television, but also via the Web and teachers’ guides used in classrooms from coast to coast. Talk about impact!

Get involved. Get online.


Sources Page 1

Page 5

• M of infants and toddlers: Nemours Foundation, “KidsHealth,” October 2008 • 68% of kids, 63%: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds,” March 2005 • 6 ½ hours a day: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds,” March 2005

• PBS most trustworthy: Gfk Roper Public Affairs & Media Survey, February 2008 • 71% Fetch! afterschool: American Institutes for Research, August 2006 • 1,000,000 online guides and materials: WGBH Educational Outreach, based on annual distribution for various productions • 21% Between the Lions: University of Kansas Study, 2000 • Nova #1 in schools: Grunwald & Associates Study for PBS, 2007

Page 2 • More time than school: Aaron Ebata, PhD, and Katherine Branscomb, MS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Media and Children: Taming Television, 2005 • Seven times as much as books: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds,” March 2005 • Two-thirds concerned: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Parents, Children & Media,” June 2007 • FCC, Parents Television Council: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Parents, Children & Media,” June 2007 • 200,000 acts of violence: American Pediatric Association, “Early Childhood Facts,” January 2008 • 40,000 murders: A.C. Huston, et al., University of Nebraska Press, “Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society,” 1992 • 1 in 8 rated E/I, 1 in 4: Children Now, “Educationally/Insufficient? An Analysis of the Availability & Educational Quality of Children’s E/I Programming,” November 2008

Page 3 • Media consumption and health: Review of 30 years of research by National Institutes of Health and Common Sense Media, December 2008 • 40,000 commercials: Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, Program for the Study of Media and Health, March 2007 • 30% increase in alcohol ads: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, “Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Television and in National Magazines, 2001 to 2006,” December 2007 • Half of the ads for junk food, etc.: Federal Trade Commission, “Children’s Exposure to TV Advertising in 1977 and 2004: Information for the Obesity Debate,” June 2007

Page 4 • $2 billion repeating a grade: US Department of Health and Human Services, reported by The Literacy Company/Educational Statistics, 2008 • Math, science ratings: Patrick Administration Education Action Agenda, “The New Promise of Education: Ready for 21st Century Success,” June 2008 • School library expenditures: American Library Association, “Report on the State of America’s Libraries,” 2008 • 36% cut inter-library loans: Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, December 2008 • Dropout rates, US and Boston: Editorial Projects in Educational Research Center, “Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation,” April 2008 • $275,000 Mass. cost: Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies, “The Fiscal Economic Consequences of Dropping Out of High School…,” March 2007 • $200 billion US cost: Boston Youth Transitions Task Force, “Too Big To Be Seen: The Invisible Dropout Crisis in Boston and America,” May 2006

Pages 6 & 7 • Tips compiled from various parental guides, including PBS Parents: Children and Media,

Page 10 • M concerned, nearly a quarter: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Parents, Children & Media,” June 2007 • 61% no rules: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Kids & Media @ the New Millennium,” November 1999 • 44% different programs: Strasburgerr & Donnerstein, 1999, cited by National Institute on Media and the Family, • Best indicator, 114,000 reading aloud: Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, 2002

Page 11 • US only industrialized: Education at a Glance 2007: OECD Indicators, from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, cited by The Education Trust, “Counting on Graduation: An Agenda for State Leadership,” Fall 2008 • 43% Boston dropout rate: America’s Promise Alliance, 2008

Photo credits Cover: center image © Natasa Blagojevic-Stokic; recurring leaves image © Rob Casey/Getty Images Page 1: © Corbis Page 2: © Page 3: © Corbis Page 4: © Page 7: © Corbis © 2009 WGBH Educational Foundation

Get involved. Get online.


One Guest Street Boston, Massachusetts 02135 617-300-2000


Kids Media Matters  

Probably worth looking at for all us CCFC fans out there--PBS Kids Go also has a great website about being a savvy consumer and getting kids...

Kids Media Matters  

Probably worth looking at for all us CCFC fans out there--PBS Kids Go also has a great website about being a savvy consumer and getting kids...