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"Keep in mind that not every conversation with your daughter will be a success story. There will be times when she will just want to be left alone and not talk about what she's watching. Your daughter will likely grow up to be a combination of what you are teaching her and what the media is teaching her, so the hope is that you can help her develop into a critical consumer of media. "
Diane Levin, Ph.D.
Co-author, So Sexy, So Soon
Don't let children have TVs in their bedrooms.
This leads to unmonitored and excessive viewing.
Keep things in perspective.
You are still one of the most important influences in your daughter's life, and you can help her sift through the media messages.
Preschool (under 5)
Limit TV viewing.
Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, which recommend no TV for children under two, and limited educational programming for preschoolers.
Start talking about shows as soon as your girl can talk back.
When you watch TV with your preschool daughter, ask her questions about what she's seeing such as, "What do you think will happen next?" or "How do you think that character is feeling?" This way, you teach your child to actively participate in and think about what she's seeing.
School Age (5-9)
Watch and talk together.
Experts recommend you limit the amount of TV your daughter watches (no more than an hour a day is a good guide) and that you talk about it together, both during the show and afterward. Suggest different types of TV programs and movies you can watch together.
Discuss the characters.
Ask your daughter what she thinks of how girls behave on TV and in the movies. Talk about the choices characters make. You might ask, "Why do you think that character acts that way? Is she doing what she wants — or what the other girls want? What would you do in this situation?"
Middle School (10 and up)
Don't go overboard.
If you ban TV and magazines completely, it may only make your daughter sneak around you to get them — and increase rather than decrease her exposure. Instead, plan with your daughter what TV shows you'll watch together, and then afterward talk about what you've seen.
Listen without judgment.
Listen to what your daughter likes about a TV show or movie without jumping in and judging it. Ask her why she likes it before you tell her why you may like or dislike certain aspects. Older girls may be less likely to want to discuss what they watch, but keep talking when you can.
Help her dissect the images she sees.
Help your daughter think critically about what she consumes, so she can put it into perspective and choose her media experiences with a discerning eye. Critical TV viewing can be a positive and educational experience for anyone. You might begin by asking, "Do you think that would happen in real life? Why or why not?" And then, "Why do you think the movie director wanted her characters to act that way? What story is she trying to tell?"
Talk about healthy relationships.
"It's so important for parents to talk with their kids about sex and dating relationships, especially in the context of the themes in prime-time drama shows," says Lyn Mikel Brown. "Each girl's maturity level develops at a different rate, but for mature preteens who are really interested in shows with romance and relationships, try joining a mail-order DVD service and choose back seasons of TV shows that have healthier, more realistic portrayals of girls."