"Violence - you can make a difference - Media literacy
Just what is
media literacy

Simply put, it's understanding how the media works, what messages it conveys to us, and what effects it has on all of us as consumers of video, audio and printed materials.

When it comes to television, media literacy most often means helping children develop critical viewing skills, because sometimes they don't fully understand what they see and hear on TV. Television can have a strong influence on children. Therefore, it is important that children and parents understand how to get the most from it.

  A family

  • Begin early. By the age of three, most toddlers have a favourite television show. But at that age, they don't understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
  • Get the whole family to help make a plan on how to manage television watching.
  • Jointly work out the ground rules for which types of programs are acceptable in your family and why.
  • Set limits on what times of the day the television can be turned on and for how long. There may be two sets of rules, one for school days, another for weekends.
Make a plan
 on how to manage
television viewing…

  • Review the TV listings for programs that offer new experiences for your child.
  • Talk about which programs you and your children like and dislike, and why.
  • Set up a family TV schedule of favourite shows with the times and channels clearly indicated.
  • Post the fist on the fridge or the side of the TV.
  • Set time aside to watch programs with your children. If you cannot watch, ask "What did I miss?", to get them to think about what they have viewed.
  • Build a family tape and/or movie collection. Younger children enjoy watching favourite shows over and over again.
  • Exchange and share tapes with other parents.
  • Follow up a TV show with a library visit to let children find out more about what they have seen on a particular program.
  • If there is a large age spread between your children, set the rules on what can be watched by the older ones when younger children are around.
  • Work out the rules for what your children are allowed to watch in other people's homes and make sure those parents are aware of them.


Photocopy freely

"Watch by the show,
not just to fill time."

Excerpt from Canada's Private Broadcasters' 1996 anti-Violence
Radio and Television Campaign

Help your children
  be critical TV


  • Help your children learn not to accept everything they see on television as real.
  • Encourage your children to question what they see and hear on television.
  • If you see something which sends out the wrong messages or values to your family, talk about it as the show is happening, and explain your concerns.
  • Ask your children if they would want to be a particular TV character, and why.
  • Talk about how to tell the difference between reality and imagination or fantasy on television.
  • Talk about how the world shown on television often does not reflect what life is really like, in terms of how much money most people have; how people get along and solve their problems; or the realities of the lives of many women, newcomers to Canada, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and other groups.
  • Talk about behaviour, violence, and language used in television programs. Ask if what happened in the program is an experience your children or their friends have had, or might ever have, in real life.
  • Point out the technical tricks program producers use to tell a dramatic story, such as special effects, music, lighting, sound, camera angles and editing.
  • Ask your children if they worry about what they see on TV, and why.

Talk about
  • Explain that companies use commercials during television programming to promote and sell their products.
  • Explain that commercials help pay for the shows they watch.
  • Talk about the message of the commercials, about the difference between buying necessities and luxuries.
Discuss what you
see on the news…
  • Television news can often make the world seem like a scary place, more frightening than it really is. Talk frankly about "real-life events" reported on newscasts. Also explain, however, that these are exceptional events and, for the most part, people's lives are not threatened in this way.
  • Have a globe or atlas at hand during newscasts, to show where the stories they see are happening.
"It's up to you to
help your children develop
critical television viewing
habits.  It takes time.
But it's worth it."

Excerpt from Canada's Private Broadcasters' 1996 anti-Violence
Radio and Television Campaign

The T.L.C. rule for television
TALK about television with your children.
LOOK at television with your children.
CHOOSE programs for them when they are young, choose with them as they grow up.


Voluntary Code
Regarding Violence in

In 1987, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) developed its first Code to address the portrayal of violence in television programming. Revised and strengthened in 1994, the current CAB Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming is today the toughest of its kind in North America.

Among the Code's
key provisions are:

  • An outright ban on programming containing gratuitous violence, and on programming which sanctions, promotes or glamourizes violence;
  • Detailed rules for the depiction of violence in children's programming, which are among the most rigourous in the world; and
  • A "watershed hour" where programming containing violence intended for adult viewers is scheduled after 9:00 p.m.
  What you can do

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is an independent organization, established in 1990 by Canada's private broadcasters. The CBSC administers the GAB Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, as well as industry codes dealing with ethics and sex-role portrayal. The CBS helps Canadians voice their concerns and resolve their complaints about private radio and television programming.

The first step in registering a complaint is to call, write or fax the station. Most complaints are settled this way. Viewers and listeners not satisfied with the station's response should forward their complaint to the CBSC for further action.

For more information, contact CBSC, PO. Box 3265, Station D, Ottawa, Canada, K1P 6H8,
tel: (613) 233-4607, fax: (613) 236-9241.