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TV Viewer's Guide: Grade Schoolers

Other ages: Preschoolers | Teens

Remember the good old preschool years when your child only knew about television programs that you turned on for her? Now that she's started school, her world has suddenly become a lot bigger. Her TV choices may be more influenced by what her friends are watching than by what you want her to watch. So how do you help her choose programs that you can both feel good about?

It goes without saying that you want to avoid programs that are violent, scary or otherwise inappropriate. It's not enough though, just to sidestep what is negative. Instead, you want to keep an eye out for the good stuff. Below is a list of just that: the ingredients that make for healthy viewing — via broadcast and on the web — and how these elements are likely to fit with your child's stage of development.

  • Lessons in Thinking and Learning
    Help your child develop a positive attitude about school and problem-solving with programs that encourage love of learning and thinking. For example, Cyberchase features animated characters who use math concepts and reasoning skills to thwart Hacker, the show's villain. WordGirl introduces vocabulary through music, comedy, animation and technology.
  • Positive Social Models
    Grade schoolers often are uncertain how to navigate interactions with peers, siblings and adults. Programs can help support their social and emotional development, from featuring non-aggressive ways to resolve conflict to encouraging characters to accept one another's differences. For example, the reality program Design Squad calls upon the team to build solutions for real-world clients.
  • Strong Male AND Female Characters
    Grade schoolers pay close attention to how people behave in order to figure out what is expected of girls versus boys and men versus women. Programs that feature intelligent, outspoken role models let grade schoolers know their talents and futures are not limited by gender. SciGirls, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math projects, makes clear these areas are for girls and boys alike.
  • Activities That Get Them off the Couch
    Watching TV doesn't have to be passive. Programs that recognize grade schoolers are more than just viewers — they can be storytellers, game players and explorers, just for starters — develop their creativity and imaginations. For example, with its mix of live action and animation, Fetch is a reality show that gets children conducting experiments and exploring the world around them.
  • Characters from a Variety of Cultures and Historical Time Periods
    As grade schoolers spend more time away from home and their neighborhood, they begin to grasp the size of the world and its long history. Programs that introduce them to new people and places, whether existing today or from the past, can satisfy their growing curiosity. Maya and Miguel mirrors an experience that is very real for many school-age children today: wanting to learn the English language while growing up in a richly diverse neighborhood.
  • Characters from Different Age Groups
    While grade schoolers typically understand basic genealogy — "my grandmother is my mom's mom," for example — they still are formulating their attitudes about family members and others in society related to age. Programs that present a wide range of characters can present healthy examples of how people can treat one another within and across generations.
  • Few or No Commercial Messages
    Programs that are free from commercial messages and interruptions allow the focus to be entirely on the learning and enjoyment. School-age viewers need not be distracted by product pitches or overcome by the desire to buy something. Instead they can begin to appreciate programming with no ads.
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