TV, kids, V-chips: surprising stats

Stay with me, because numbers and statistics loom ahead, but they paint an important picture about parents, children, and television.

A survey released this week shows that only 7 percent of parents with children 2 to 17 use the so-called V-chip to limit what their kids see on TV. More than 80 percent of these parents either don't have a TV equipped with the chip (required in nearly all TV sets made after December 1999) or don't know whether they have one.

The chip allows parents to program their sets to block out shows based on the rating the networks assign to them. (TV-14, for example, means the show is for those over 14 years old.)

Despite this indifference to the V-chip, 4 of 5 parents say they're worried that their children are viewing too much sex and violence on TV, and nearly half say they think this exposure leads directly to unwelcome child behavior.

Why the disparity? The survey of 800 parents by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation of Menlo Park, Calif., says both networks and TV manufacturers are doing little to tell parents about the V-chip. And many parents, who already dread programming their VCR and other electronic gadgets around the house, may have decided the V-chip is just too complicated to bother with.

Fifty-six percent of parents did rely on the TV ratings that flash on screen at the beginning of entertainment shows to decide if their children should view them. But the complicated TV rating system (what does "TV-Y7-FV" mean?) puts in doubt whether they make informed decisions: Only 5 percent, for example, knew that the "D" rating meant the show had "suggestive dialogue."

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