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Are sitcoms harmful to children? Do they teach sassy, disrespectful behavior? What are some alternatives?

Topics: Screen Time

You may have witnessed your otherwise sweet tween snapping her fingers and rolling her eyes just like her favorite TV star. Welcome to adolescence, where kids naturally (and age-appropriately) begin to look to peers instead of their parents for cues on how to behave. Media acts as a kind of "super peer" that reflects culture -- but also perpetuates stereotypes and extremes of tween and teen behavior.

Still, media is only one force that affects kids. What you say still matters, even if you think your kids aren't listening. You can help counterbalance some of the messages they're getting from shallower TV shows with these tips.

  • Watch the shows with them and add your two cents. Parents' messages make an impact.
  • Let them choose only one of the "sassy" shows. Explain why you have a limit, and talk to them about the characters' behavior.
  • Recognize boundary-testing. Kids try on different identities to see how they fit. They need loving, supportive feedback to learn what's acceptable and what's not.
  • Find other shows with messages that reflect your values and have positive role models. With online streaming video shows for kids, you have a lot of options.
  • Call out the good stuff. Most shows directed at kids do have positive messages: The mean girl learns a lesson, the cheater goes to the principal's office, and the liar gets grounded. Seize the teachable moments.
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