How to Keep Your Kids From Growing Up Too Fast

Watch What He's Watching

You can monitor some of the media's influence on your child by paying close attention to his tube time. Not just the number of hours he's glued to the set (though that's certainly important), but what he's watching and the messages being conveyed. According to a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 10-year-olds spend more than 17 hours a week in front of the TV.

Increasingly, children's programs (and their commercials) target grade-schoolers with messages and products that once would have been considered more appropriate for teens. "Since most 8-year-olds worship teens, many marketers have decided to promote products to them as though they are several years older," says Susan Linn, Ed.D., director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. While many kids don't have wadfuls of cash to spend, pleading with their parents gives them a lot of economic power: Children under 12 influence $500 billion in spending each year. And just because a program is on a kids' network doesn't mean it's appropriate for your child. If you don't like what you're seeing or hearing, turn off the television and discuss your concerns with your kid. You might say: "One thing that bothers me about this show is the way the popular kids were teasing and laughing at that boy. What do you think of that?" Then help him find something better to watch.

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