Why Don't TVs' Parental Controls Think Like Parents?

Excuse me while I vary this blog's normal format for a rant.

Today's televisions (and I just finished reviewing 13 of them for PC World) try to help parents protect their children from the boob tube's negative effects. But they all miss the point.

All modern HDTVs come with parental controls. So do DVRs. The concept is simple, even if the execution can be fret with problems. Once the parent takes control, the TV won't play any programs with adult ratings unless you enter a passcode that you hope your children don't know.

This is all well and good--at least when it works properly (I once tried banning adult content on a TiVo, and blocked out everything on the usually tame Turner Classic Movies.) But ask educators and other experts about children and television, and their biggest concern isn't Janet Jackson's breast. It's the amount of time children and teenagers spend in front of the box. After all, time spent watching TV isn't time interacting with friends, getting exercise, or doing homework.

So if the TV manufacturers really want to help us raise our children, they should give us tools for rationing TV time. Why not an option where the set can only remain on for so many minutes a day without the passcode? Or even where you need the code just to turn on the set?

Only you can control your children's TV time--and only you have the right to decide how much control they need. But a little electronic help would be nice--especially from companies that claim they are helping.

Email your technology questions to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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