Help Your Children Think Critically About What They Watch

Throughout your child’s life are a plethora of opportunities to engage them and help them to grow. One of those moments comes in the area of thinking critically. Just recently I happened to have a conversation with one of my three young ones. It all started over a a comment that my oldest made in regards to something my youngest child said.

You see, my son who is the youngest is a fan of shows like Nickelodeon’s® Team Umizoomi and Disney‘s® Blaze. My oldest daughter is eleven years older than my son and made the comment that she did not like one of the shows that he was watching. When I probed further into her reasoning as to why, it turned out that her only qualification for not liking the show was that she felt she was too old to watch it and that therefore exempted her from liking it. This began a great dialog for us about thinking critically about television.

When talking to your children you must always remember first to engage them at their level of understanding. For this, what I often like to do is to watch shows with them that they say they like, and then I ask questions about the show. It is important to me to see what they are comprehending in the shows they watch.

Finding the Humor: When it comes to comedies, I want to see if they understand a joke that was made. I’m finding that there are often jokes made in many of today’s programming for children that only the parent would get. Often subtle nuances can leave a child to laugh about something and not know why it was funny. Explaining them doesn’t always guarantee that they will comprehend or appreciate it, but it may help them to come to a conclusion about whether it was really funny to them.

Finding the Lesson: It doesn’t matter what show your child watches, every show is teaching a lesson. Asking your child about key point that you find in a show’s plot or storyline creates teachable moments. Some of my children’s shows are design to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills. Other shows are teaching social interaction, manners, family dynamics or any number of useful things.

The older my children get, the deeper the engagement can become. I want my children to be able to distinguish ideas like whether something is age appropriate. Just because a show is advertised as appropriate for a certain age group doesn’t always make it so. I also want them to determine if a show is morally, ethically or biblically sound in the messages it is conveying. Does everything they see have some form of violence? Does it teach inappropriate relationships between family and/or authority figures?

At the end of the conversation with my oldest daughter, I wanted her to understand that just because the show was for younger viewers, that didn’t mean that she could not like it. I wanted her to know that she can base her decision on the merits of the values and lessons it teaches. While the show may in fact be geared for younger children and she may feel too mature to watch it, she can be more astute in her reasoning for liking or disliking a particular show.

Take some time to help your child think critically about what shows they watch and why. It’s not just a teachable moment for them; it’s a teachable moment for you as well.

QUESTION: Are there other things that you do to help your children think critically about the shows they watch?


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