Keeping an eye on teen TV time

12 - 18 years
Family watching tv

TV and teens—it’s a combination that’s hard to avoid sometimes. If your family does enjoy some TV time (in moderation), here are some tips to help make watching TV a positive learning experience for your teen.

Watch what your teen watches

As your teen gets older, it can get harder to keep track of the kinds of things they are watching. It’s not just TV and videos – these days, teenagers can use mobile devices and computers to view clips on YouTube, social media, news websites and a million other sources. While TV program classifications give guidance on whether TV shows are suitable for different age groups, there’s often less guidance on online content. So regularly check in with your teen about what they’re watching, and talk about whether it’s suitable. Better yet, try to watch things with your teen – it’s a great opportunity to chill out on the couch and enjoy some relaxed time together.

Talk about it

Talk to your teen about the programs and online content they are watching – it can be a great way to discuss different situations and difficult topics. If you’re watching a program together and the opportunity arises, ask your teenager how they might handle the same situation, or share what you’ve done in a similar situation in the past. You can also help your teenager to be more aware of the messages they are exposed to through the media by asking them questions, for example ‘Why do you think programs like this are so popular?’ ‘Are the storylines and characters in this show realistic?’ ‘What is that ad trying to make us feel / do?’

It’s not just entertainment

TV shows and online content can educate, inform and inspire. Encourage your teen to find content related to their interests or things they are learning at school – like chemistry, the environment or history. News, current events, and documentaries can also help teenagers become more aware of the world around them and interested in social and political issues.

Encourage non-screen activities

Encourage your teen to balance screen time with ‘non-screen’ physical and creative activities, such as music, sports or just spending time with friends and family.

Develop healthy screen habits as a family

It can be helpful to set some screen time guidelines for your family. Try having a family discussion about screen time guidelines that you can all agree to. Talk about whether there should be different rules for weekdays, weekends and holidays – or negotiate ‘turn off’ times for before bed, during meals or when your teen is doing homework. Giving your teen the chance to participate in developing your family rules can help them to understand and accept them.

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Last modified
20 April 2020