– Helping Parents with the Changing Media Landscape


Television and the Internet afford anyone virtually unlimited access to information about our world. That world, however, can often be a perplexing place especially for kids, and this limitless supply of information can make it even more complex.

One of the most significant challenges any parent faces is deciding how and when to introduce their children to these complex realities. Controlling what television programming and online content children have access to is an important component of any strategy for facing this challenge. NCTA recently has taken steps to further help parents and caregivers in this regard.

In 1980, the television viewing experience for 49% of families consisted of gathering around a single TV in their home. Back then, parents could know more easily what their kids would be watching, and when they should be vigilant about screening their kids’ programming options.

Today, families exist within a very different technology and content landscape. Since 2005 an increasing majority of all households report having more than three televisions. With more than 900 cable channels offered, and access to much of that programming available via on-demand and TV Everywhere services, television content can be viewed in multiple locations, on many different devices, within an average household – or away from it – at any time of the day. Furthermore, broadband Internet service is now available for 93% of all U.S. households, and over 80% of children ages 3-17 live in a household with at least one computer or other internet-enabled device. This explosion of access through increased offerings, services, and affordable devices means that it is now impractical, and most likely impossible for parents to personally supervise where, when and how their children access television and internet content, and what content they have access to.


Fortunately, cable providers have helped pioneer several solutions to this challenge. Cable has long provided services such as television controls that can restrict content based on content rating, channel, or even specific programs or series. It also provides online controls that can be used to restrict or monitor the sites children access, or to monitor the interactions with other online users. Present-day television and online parental control tools, given their customization ability, provide more comprehensive protections for children. And, as children mature and develop greater independence, parental control tools can be modified in ways that complement their developmental needs.

Reflecting the need for parents to learn how to be in control of what their kids are watching on TV and accessing online, NCTA’s Cable Impacts Foundation recently launched a site highlighting both TV and online parental controls, The new site provides a single portal for educating parents about both television and online parental control tools and resources, and underscores several overlapping concepts that span the two services.

To be sure, the site is much more than a “How To” guide for control tools. It educates parents about strategies for engaging their children in important discussions about important topics such as digital citizenship, and how their choices can impact their own lives, as well as the lives of others. If you have kids – or know anyone who does – give the site a try, and learn more about tools you can use to make content enriching for all families.