Media & Me: Helping kids develop good TV viewing habits

Published on 16 November 2010

As Ms Corrine Fong sat glued to her television set watching an episode of "Nip/Tuck", she was startled by the scenes she saw, which featured some bone-chillingly realistic surgical procedures.

A critically-acclaimed American drama series about two plastic surgeons and their Miami-based cosmetic surgical practice, the drama explores themes such as violence, sexuality, recreational drug use and self-mutilation. To meet content guidelines for Free-To-Air TV broadcast, some portions of the drama were edited before it was shown on MediaCorp.

"I really didn't expect to see it on TV here, because some scenes were graphic," said the teacher from Pioneer Primary School. Her concern with what content is shown on TV echoes the views of many parents. 

Said Corrine, "Children are exposed to a lot of things in the media, and they learn whatever they see or hear quite quickly. They can therefore easily pick up bad words and be influenced by sexual and mature themes from various media sources."

It is such concerns that has led MDA to develop standards to guide children to age-appropriate content. Under current guidelines, as free-to-air channels are available to all homes, all programmes broadcast between 6am and 10pm must be suitable for general audiences i.e. suitable for the whole family. This is because younger viewers are more likely to be watching TV during those hours.

During later timeslots starting from 10pm, broadcasters can show programmes which contain more mature or sensitive themes, but such programmes need to carry a PG (Parental Guidance) advisory to highlight to viewers what to expect.

MediaCorp Broadcast Guidelines

  • 6am-10pm: Family Hours (content suitable for family audiences)
  • 10pm and after: Parental Guidance (PG) (content with adult themes can be shown)

In the case of "Nip/Tuck", the programme was aired after 10pm and accompanied by an advisory which alerts parents to its content concerns and unsuitability for younger audiences. By having such advisories, and recognising that certain types of content can be broadcast only at certain times of the day, parents can make an informed decision as to whether their children should be allowed to watch a particular programme.

Ms Fong also strongly believes that parents have a role to play in guiding their kids' TV viewing habits.

"Watching TV together with your children allows you to discuss the show with them, and if something inappropriate is shown or said, you can point out that it is something that is not acceptable to your family’s value system," she said.

Parental locking mechanisms offered by pay TV broadcasters such as StarHub Cable Vision and SingTel mio TV are other tools which parents can use to prevent their children from accessing mature content. These locking mechanisms, which are features in-built into pay TV set-top boxes, are useful since pay TV channels show higher rated content up to M18.

More information on parental locking devices are available below:


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