With hundreds of channels and thousands of hours of programming, television presents an immense challenge to parents. Preventing children from watching inappropriate programming can feel like a Herculean challenge, but cable providers, television manufacturers, and Internet streaming services have done what they can to make the process a little easier. Parents have several options available to them for dealing with television channels, to ensure they are not viewed without supervision.
Most modern televisions feature built-in support for the V-Chip, a special device that reads the rating of specific programs and controls whether they can be displayed. All television programs are assigned a rating; for example, a TV-MA program is considered for adults only, while a TV-G program is considered suitable for most audiences. If your television has V-Chip support, you can use its parental controls or Settings menu to prohibit the display of programs based on their ratings. Adults can still view these programs with an access code, but children will not be able to watch them on any channel.
Your Cable Provider and Set-Top Box
Cable companies also include options for controlling which channels can and cannot be displayed. Comcast, for example, includes a Parental Controls option on its DVRs and set-top boxes that enables parents to block channels, as well as movies and television shows based on their ratings. Time Warner and DirecTV offer similar options. Check for parental controls through your cable box’s main menu or contact your cable provider for help with specific channel blocking steps for your hardware.
Dealing With the Internet
Many television programs and channels are available over the Web. Comedy Central, Cartoon Network’s adult-oriented Adult Swim, Fox, and many other networks have streaming options available either on their own website or on sites like Hulu. If you want to protect your kids from certain television content, you’ll need to add a layer of protection to your computer. Parental control software for your PC or Mac will enable you to control which sites your kids can and cannot visit, in addition to controlling the media they can view over the Web.
Television has changed dramatically with the advent of streaming services, such as Hulu and Netflix. If your television supports the installation of apps, you’ll need to take steps to employ parental controls for those apps. Netflix, for example, has a wide library of content that parents may find inappropriate for children; parents must enable Netflix’s parental controls to ensure there isn’t a loophole in protection. The best course of action is to supervise children closely and to handle the blocking of programming and channels as the need arises.
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