Watch TV Smarter: Develop Your Teens’ Critical Thinking

Teens watching TV

Turn your teenager from a couch potato into a film buff by teaching him the language of film and TV programming.

Your teen will discover there’s no single “correct” way to interpret a story or an image. Instead, what a person gets out of a show or a film comes from who that person is, what he knows about the world, and what he understands about the art form.

With your involvement, your teen will see that living in a visual culture means learning to decode the messages before him. That’s much better than merely accepting those images at face value.

6 Ways to Turn Your Teen into an Active Viewer

  1. Talk to your teen about TV’s “tricks of th  trade.”
    Point out patterns: laugh tracks and live audiences on half-hour sitcoms, themed subplots running through hour-long dramas, unrealistic elements in “reality” shows or a dominant point of view that drives documentaries. Rather than channel-surf during commercials, mute the sound and talk to your teen.
  2. Find out if TV images affect your teen’s self image.
    Popular culture can dictate what’s cool and what it means to be accepted. Knowing this, talk to your teen about media messages. Start a conversation by asking your teen how she feels (Do you envy that character?), whether the show reflects her life (Do you know anyone who looks or acts like that?) and what she knows (Do you think that’s really what happens in a trial?).
  3. Help your teen question what he sees.
    By talking back to the TV when a show doesn’t make sense or an ad makes unrealistic claims, your teen will learn not to accept what is portrayed on TV as the truth.

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