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Using Videos to Start a Conversation about Tolerance

​​By Bridget Barnes​, Director, Boys Town Common Sense Parenting

Two-dimensional characters on flat screens are everywhere. The multiplying number of screens added to the ever-expanding number of channels and streaming services means that children are exposed to more videos than ever. And not all of those videos are showing your children model behavior.

Be There for Kids

Of course, you can’t simply ban all screen time. When your children do watch television or videos, try to watch ​with them. That way you can make sure that what they see is age-appropriate, and you can be there to ask and answer questions as situations arise, whether they’re fictional or on the news.

While watching videos with your young ones, look for “teachable moments” to explain tolerance and empathy:

  • If you see a child being made fun of or picked on in a video or on TV, ask your son how he would feel if that were happening to him.
  • If you see a news story about people with conflicting opinions or ideologies, ask your daughter how she might disagree with someone in a way that is still respectful.
  • If you see a report of people being discriminated against because of their skin color, religion or national origin, ask your children to list things they have in common with these people, rather than focusing on the differences.

The more children are able to see things through the eyes of others, the more they are likely to become tolerant, open-minded adolescents and adults.

Limit Their On-Screen Time

As an alternative to screen time, encourage your children to get involved in community activities where they will interact with others who may be different from them. This early exposure to diversity can help them become more open-minded as they grow. Outdoor pursuits that involve physical activity have the added benefit of providing children a way to exercise and improve their health — which they simply can’t get while sitting on a couch in front of the television.

Always Model Good Behavior

Raising tolerant children is one of the most important jobs you have as a parent. By keeping an eye on their viewing habits and looking for onscreen teachable moments, you can help your children grow up to be more open and accepting of others. Of course, if you simply model tolerance yourself in your daily life, your job is half done already.

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