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The Ospedale Bambino Gesù takes great care in protecting your child's physical, psychological, and moral dignity and so it offers a service for information and awareness dealing with the risks of excessive and inappropriate exposure to television programs promoted by the Paediatric Psychology Services.

This is an excerpt from the conference, "TV and Children: physicians and psychologists debate" sponsored by the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù and the Comitato di applicazione del codice di autoregolamentazione TV e Minori (the Committee for the Implementation of the Self-regulation Code on TV and Minors), with the participation of the National Bioethics Committee. 

Television and Children

The Ospedale Bambino Gesù is particularly sensitive to the protection of minors and to safeguarding their physical, psychological and moral dignity also in light of the Ecclesiastical Letter, "The Rapid Development".

Parents have a lot of questions: How old should my child be before he can start watching TV? Can too much exposure be damaging? How can I protect my child from unsuitable images and programs?

Children run risks with prolonged, unsupervised exposure to television programs and shows that can have disturbing and negative effects on them. It is also necessary to consider that excessive television viewing, regardless of the type of program, reduces time that can be spent on creative activities, interacting with peers and adults, reading, and play.

Children are often subjected to messages, values and communication methods that, due to their age and environment, can have negative effects on their psychological and physical development and sometimes cause damages that are not easily recognizable at first and difficult to "repair" later.

Statistics and clinical cases show that families have insufficient knowledge of which programs are age-appropriate for their child: they often underestimate the risks their children are exposed to; they don't monitor the shows their kids are watching; they don't discuss the shows with them therefore allowing whatever they're watching to influence them and undermine the educational values, opinions and beliefs shared within a family.

Having TVs in a child or adolescent's bedroom can significantly reduce the emotional bond between members of a family. Watching TV separately and alone prevents children from experiencing the necessary phase of "getting to know and understanding" themselves which is important for self-reassurance throughout their development.

Furthermore, due to the nature of television, entertainment programs often suggest cultures in which certain "realities" are voiced and parents are not always there to answer or explain any doubts and/or fears children may have. 

Advice from a Psychologist

Don't use TV as a means to "keep your child quiet".

Time allowed for watching television should be limited (like any sedentary activity) and spaced out with games, reading, sports and talking.

Choose quality shows that shield children from information and content that could damage their development.

Discourage the habit of falling asleep in front of the TV, in the bedroom or on the couch, and encourage reading a book at night or even better, talk to your child before he falls asleep.

Don't allow your child/adolescent to have the TV on when he studies or does homework as it can decrease concentration levels and increase the probability of getting tired earlier.

When possible, watch entertainment shows, informative TV, and films with your child. Even if they are suitable for children, your child may need some explaining, reassurance and evaluation from you.

Be aware that the repetitious nature of commercials and entertainment shows increases the desire to want things, consumerism, and the imitation of role models that are superficial or completely unreal.

Keep in mind that even though television can be a useful tool for learning, the exclusive use as such can lead to a slower development in concentration and critical thinking, and can obstruct learning in school as well as create states of confusion in a child.   

How to Protect Children from Harmful TV Programs

Television stations have committed not only to scrupulously respecting the applicable laws regarding the protection of children (Art. 31 of the Constitution and Art. 17 of the UN Convention), but also to adapting to the code of self-regulation that contributes positively to the development of a child's personality and refrains from transmitting messages that can harm them.

The Ministry of Communications and television networks have subscribed to a code that protects the rights and the physical and moral dignity of children, with particular attention and reference to weaker ages (0-14 years) in the time slot between 7:00 am and 10:30 pm.

Read the "Codice di autoregolamentazione TV e minori" >>

(The TV and Minor Self-regulating Code. Source: Agcom web site. In Italian.)

What to do if the Code is Violated

Contact the Committee for the Implementation of the Self-regulation Code on TV and Minors. In fact, the committee, through their offices or as representatives of people making a charge, conforms to the standard procedures regulating violations of the code and releases the consequent resolutions that must be met by whom was found in violation.

The committee, headed by Dr. Emilio Rossi, is made up of, in equal number, members that represent networks, institutions and the National Council for Users at the Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Authority for Communications Guarantees). By visiting the site "Comitato di applicazione del Codice di autoregolamentazione TV e minori" you can download the form for reporting violations of the code.

The Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù has always been at the forefront of raising awareness regarding the self-regulating code and law No. 112.

Dr. Gianni Biondi, Director of the Department of Paediatric Psychology at the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù is a member of the Committee for the Implementation of the Self-regulation Code on TV and Minors.

See also: Children and Movies