A few weeks ago, David Kleeman, the President of the American Center for Children and Media, wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post. In it, he suggested a new idea that could benefit parents who monitor their kids’ TV-viewing behaviors: A kind of “ingredients label” for children’s television programs, making the philosophies, creative approach and curriculum available to all. I’ve been wrapping my head around the idea, trying to figure out my own opinion.
What Kleeman is suggesting is very different from TV Ratings already in place. That is, we are already given things like “TV-Y” for content directed to all children, or “TV-MA” for mature audiences only, etc. These ratings are given by a separate monitoring board than the producers. He is also not talking about the kind of ratings determined by Common Sense Media, an organization that both rates programming based by age-appropriateness but also allows parents to weigh in with their own reviews. In essence, he is calling upon the Creators and the Producers of children’s television to create guidelines, or “nutritional content” of their shows.
Having been fortunate enough to work on the production side of some great children’s television, I can tell you that everything he says in that post is correct. There are some extremely thoughtful producers out there, carefully crafting their product to have the best impact on kids. Some of them even go out into the world to pilot-test some of the learning ideas with small groups of children. Many of them use Developmental Psychologists to read the scripts and give their notes. Most of them have a curriculum. However, not all of them do all these things. Others do some of those things, but in a half-hearted way, knowing that it gives them better credibility with parents. It is sometimes difficult to tell that, however, because all shows seem to have websites that will gladly tell you their intentions.
I like the idea of an “ingredients label” for children’s television, but would insist upon a standard one, much like the FDA uses. In fact, such a label should be overseen by an outside monitoring agency much like the FDA who could limit what those ingredients would be and monitor if they are truthful. (Perhaps the American Center for Children and Media could fill this role? Are you listening, David Kleeman?) I fear that children’s TV programs out there who do NOT carefully craft their product would not want to comply, however. Any idea about what should be done about that?
Certainly, this label would make picking and choosing TV shows for our kids much easier. We would co-view not simply to monitor the content but to enhance the learning. How would a label on TV shows change the way you watch? Would you want one? I’m curious to hear what you have to think; let’s get the conversation started.