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Parents Can Help Put a Positive Spin on TV

Valley PTAs and cable firms are offering training programs to help guide viewing decisions.


Summer is coming and for most families that invariably means kids spending too many hours languishing in front of the television. For parents and teachers, who may be worried about how best to handle this issue, help is available.

"Parents can play a big role in guiding kids' TV viewing, and the PTA is now offering training programs if parents want advice," said Valley Parent-Teacher Assn. President Catherine Flory.

"You've got to give kids viewing options appropriate to their age or grade level, open up lines of communication with them about their attitudes, learn what they consider acceptable behavior as seen on TV and discuss your values with them."

This, of course, is a reference to TV violence, but there is something else to consider: Television offers parents an opportunity to use some of those long stretches of viewing time for positive, educational purposes.

Gloria Pollack, an education specialist with Cablevision Industries, the West Valley cable service provider, conducts monthly "critical viewing" training sessions for parents in cooperation with local PTAs.

"I teach them how to use media effectively," she said. During her presentations, Pollack shows appropriate programs available on cable channels such as Nickelodeon, Discovery, the Learning Channel and American Movie Classics' forthcoming "Kids' Classics" series.

One of a lively band of educators who works for cable TV companies in the Valley, Pollack and her counterparts met with local PTA members at the L.A. Convention Center last week for a "Critical Viewing Skills Workshop," put on by the National Cable Television Assn.

That association also supports the year-round operations of Cable in the Classroom--a service that provides teachers with commercial-free versions of cable shows with potential as classroom illustrations.

On Wednesday, teachers from all over Southern California will convene in Van Nuys for their annual briefing on what is educationally relevant these days for kids' home and school viewing.

A new magazine, "Better Viewing," featuring TV advice for parents and kids, supports the PTA and cable industry's effort to "train" viewers.

According to executive editor Al Race, "It's better than the V-chip (a government-mandated electronic censoring device) and makes selecting TV shows for kids not only safe but valuable."



* CONFERENCE: 2-6 p.m. Wednesday; Cable in the Classroom 3rd Annual Conference, with demonstrations and seminars for teachers on how to select, videotape and use commercial-free programming from the leading cable networks as instructional materials. Airtel Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, 7277 Valjean Ave., Van Nuys. Admission and parking is free but reservations are advised by Sunday. Call Sheri Rubin, TCI East San Fernando Valley, (818) 778-5120, or Century Communications, (310) 264-8072.

* PARENT TRAINING: "Taking Charge of Your TV" is a joint project of the national PTA and the cable industry to help parents control the impact of TV violence and commercialism on children.

The organization will host a special summer training session for parents and PTA officers from Valley schools at its headquarters, 7-9 p.m. June 7, 17445 Cantlay St., Van Nuys, free.

To arrange a presentation for your local parents group, call Melissa Abramovicz, communications bureau manager at the Parent Teacher Student Assn. (31st District PTSA), (818) 344-3581 or (818) 987-2494.

* MAGAZINES: "Better Viewing" is published bimonthly and contains listings and articles on family-oriented, educationally valuable programs on network and cable channels in age-appropriate categories. The publication is $9.97 per year.

"Cable in the Classroom," a monthly, is especially for teachers. It is $18 a year. For free samples or to subscribe, call (800) 743-5355.

* BOOK: "The Smart Parent's Guide to Kids' TV," by Milton Chen, PhD, explains why parents need to take control of children's TV watching, and how to do it. KQED Books, $9.95, plus tax and shipping. Call the Center for Media Literacy, (800) 226-9494.

* CD-ROM: "Telecommunications & Multimedia Encyclopedia" is a comprehensive reference for media-savvy parents and teachers, published by Jones Digital Century. $39.95 at video stores or call (800) 750-5663.

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