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The exposure of our children to harmful content is a major concern for all parents. In a world where kids are consumed by technology and the internet, information on suicide and violence are just a click away.

Shockingly, YouTube Kids – a supposedly kid-friendly platform, has been found to have suicide clips and sexual exploitation videos.

The scary reality is that we live in a world where many children’s programs glorify mature and dangerous topics such as suicide, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, gun violence and sexual abuse.

As children grow and develop, they can be easily influenced by what they see and hear, especially from digital media. Digital media can include TV, the internet, and smart devices. Some programs can be educational. But many programs can show children violent behaviour, and other inappropriate content that you don’t want them to imitate, or that can cause fear.

As a parent, you can help decrease the harmful effects of digital media. You can monitor the type of programming and limit your child’s screen time. Here are some tips for setting good viewing habits:

• Choose programs for your child to watch. Always plan what your child will be watching. Don’t turn on a viewing device randomly. Give choices between 2 programs you think are appropriate for your child.

• Limit screen time to 1 or 2 hours a day for children older than 2 years. 

• Turn to educational shows, or from programming such as the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, or History Channel.

• Watch programs with your child. Talk about what happened on the show. Talk about what was good or bad about the program. Talk about the difference between reality and make-believe.

• Turn off the TV or other device if the program is something you believe your child should not see.

• Don’t assume all cartoons are acceptable and appropriate. Many cartoons contain violence.

• Many daytime programs such as soap operas and talk shows are not appropriate for children.

• Be a good example to your child by not watching too much TV or digital media yourself. Limit your own screen time. Be involved in other activities, especially reading. Read to your child.

• Encourage play and exercise for your child. Plan other fun activities for your child, so he or she has choices instead of screen time.

The internet and television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behaviour. Unfortunately, much of today’s content available to children is inappropriate. As parents, we need to start by educating ourselves, educating our children, and speaking up when we see something that is dangerous for our children. 

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Author – Jessica Gooding

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