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Effective Co-Viewing

Ideas on How to Make Watching TV a Better Learning Experience for Your Children

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In current discussions about children’s educational programming, “co-viewing” seems to be the buzz-word of the day. What is co-viewing? Well, it is simply watching TV with your children, but effective co-viewing involves a little more. Here are some ideas for getting more value out of your children’s TV viewing time:

  • Talk about TV/movies as you watch with your kids. Ask your kids questions throughout the show, such as “What do you think is going to happen…?” “What does that mean?” “Why do you think the character did that?” or “How do you think the character feels about that?” Get them actively thinking about television, instead of just passively watching.

  • Point out interesting things in the show. Whether it is a scene, a song, or just part of the background, if you notice something interesting point it out to your child.
  • Address inappropriate content or behavior. For example, if siblings are fighting in a TV program, you can ask your kids, “Why are they fighting?” “Is that a good way to act toward each other?” “What should they do instead of fighting?”
  • Discuss the difference between TV and reality. If that character fell off a cliff and got hit on the head with a rock in real life, would he really be just fine? Kids' shows often show characters doing dangerous things or fighting with no real consequences. Kids need to know that the things that happen on TV are very unrealistic and would result in serious consequences in the real world.
  • After the program is over, ask your children questions about the plot, or help them summarize the show. Recalling plot details will help prepare kids for school by teaching them how to effectively summarize or explain a story.
  • Use television and movies as a springboard for additional learning. If your child shows interest in something from the show, use that interest to teach them that learning can be fun. For example, if you are watching a show about penguins, and your child seems excited about it, you can go online with them and look up websites with pictures and fun facts about penguins, or help your child get a library book about penguins.
  • Help your kids learn the meaning of the word “interactive”. Many children’s programs today, especially those created for preschoolers, claim they are more educational because they are “interactive”. The problem is, the shows are only interactive if your child decides to interact. Most children are content to just sit on the couch and stare at the TV screen as their favorite character blinks at them waiting for a “response” to a question. Give kids an example of interaction by answering the characters’ questions out loud and singing when they ask the viewer to sing along. Many times, kids just need someone to point out to them that they can yell the answer to the TV or get up and sing and dance along.
  • Have fun! The best thing about “co-viewing” is the extra cuddle time you can enjoy as you talk and laugh about TV shows or movies with your kids.

Practicing these TV viewing activities with your kids will establish a habit of thinking and active participation, which can make TV time a little more educational even when you are not able to sit and watch with them.

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How to Screen Television Shows for Kids
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