Coalition for Quality Children's Media
KIDS FIRST! JUROR MANUAL

If you have any questions, please email [email protected] or call 505-989-8076.

3. GUIDELINES FOR WORKING WITH YOUNG JURORS

The Warming-up Process: In gathering your Children's Jury, make certain they are quiet, settled, and focused before beginning. You want them to put aside whatever they were doing before and to focus their attention on the task at hand. Ask them to sit still, close their eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten slowly. Pick a time to do the screening when they aren't feel overly excited or rushed. If you discover, once you've started, that you don't have adequate time or they're simply not concentrating, put it aside to do at another time.

Giving Instructions: Explain to the children that they have been asked to evaluate the product they are about to see or utilize. Discuss what film critics do. Let them know that their responses are very important. Emphasize that there is no "right" way to respond, and that different people have different, and equally valuable, opinions. All thoughts and responses are valid. Encourage boisterous children to listen to others' responses and invite the quieter children to share their ideas and opinions. Orient the children to the concept of opinion "sharing." Unless you work with the same group of children all the time; remember that each group is different. Questions that might work well on one group might not necessarily work well with another.

AGES 0-2: Don't reject a title because the children aren't glued to the screen. They shouldn't be. Children this age are not expected to sit still and be attentive in the same way as an older child. It's okay for them to shift their attention to other things and to get up and move around. For the evaluation process, notice whether the program engages the child part of the time, and when it does so. In your evaluation, you might mention things such as: "the kids all bounced along to the music" or said, "again, again." Note whether the program is engaging for parents by offering suggestions they can do with their infant or toddler.

AGES 2-5: It's unlikely that this age child will sit still for the entire program. They may wander in and out during the screening. This is fine. It is also important to remember that children ages 2-5 are still sorting out what's real and what's pretend. They are easily frightened. Interpret their feedback based on physical responses as well as verbal ones. In your evaluation, you might mention things such as: "The kids loved Dora and asked to see her again the next day" or "No one in this group sat still for more than a few minutes and then they wandered off." 2) Younger children need more coaxing. Try sitting on the floor with them while asking them questions and make eye contact - very important. Don't expect a long attention span with little ones.

AGES 5-8: This age responds well to programs that promote a sense of security and accomplishment, i.e., "how to" programs that teach magic tricks or science experiments; programs concerning separation issues with parents and familiar figures; pets that rescue humans or animals. They model heroes they see on the TV screen. They enjoy fairy tales, musicals, animal stories, and other inspirational programs. They're usually quite forthright about responses, but may need prodding for specific comments. You may find that girls and boys respond to titles differently, that's okay - just be sure to mention it. Be specific in telling us about the kids' responses. Actual quotes are great and we print them verbatim in our reviews as space permits. Try to talk to the older ones in a manner that they can relate to. Example, one Juror had a six-year-old boy who loved the word COOL. She knew that if she used that word in a question she could always count on him for a response. In other words, rather than asking him if he liked the video she would say "Johnny did you think the video was cool?" Then she would follow up with "why?" By that time she knew she had his attention and he was ready to explain.

AGES 8-12: This group relates well to more complex plots and characters. They like to compare what they see to their own experiences. They are interested in environmental issues, sports, science fiction, fantasy, and how things work. This group also easily succumbs to peer pressure and tends to repeat feedback from the first respondent. So, keep reminding them, "There are no wrong answers." Make copies of the evaluation form, pass one out to each child and have them write down their evaluations. Then, share the evaluations with the group and discuss the different points of view. Constantly reinforce the idea that everyone's opinion matters. You can also introduce new vocabulary such as antagonist, protagonist, or discuss production values or accuracy with them. You can also discuss the issue of gratuitous or non-gratuitous violence, bias and stereotyping, and replicable unsafe behavior.

AGES 12-18: This group often considers themselves adults, even though they may vacillate between juvenile and mature behavior. They are critical thinkers and, when directed, can be incredibly insightful. Provocative, open forum discussions can be held over issues such as loyalty, honesty, and friendship. They also will succumb to peer pressure, particularly if there are strong personalities in the group. Girls and boys may have quite different interests at this age. You might even consider single-sex groupings occasionally for more in-depth responses.

TIPS TO SHARE WITH YOUR PARENTS ABOUT TV VIOLENCE

The recent outset of violence in schools has again raised parents' concerns about the influence of television violence on their children. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on avoiding TV violence:

1. Pay attention to the programs your children are watching. Watch with them.

2. Point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death.

3. Refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV when something offensive comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program.

4. Disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem.

5. To offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules.

Other Considerations

American children in general have had exposure to television disproportionate to their exposure to literature and the arts. Because of this, they may be intolerant of videos they perceive to be too slow moving. Young children who are read to often have more highly developed listening skills and may enjoy slower-paced programs such as Rabbit Ears productions or "The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends" by Jonathan Coats. Similarly, children who have attended stage performances are more likely to appreciate video dramas than those who have not.

One of the benefits of children's participation as Jurors is exposure to quality programs which they may not choose to watch on their own. Child Jurors are developing critical viewing skills by learning to base their evaluations on specific criteria as opposed to generalizations such as "It was boring" or "It was too slow." Recently, a parent of one of our child Jurors commented: "I'm so glad my son is part of your jury. I've tried to put limits on his TV viewing in the past but my justifications went unheard. Now, he's the one who says, 'Mom, don't you think this show has a lot of gender stereotypes?' " Alongside their new found critical viewing skills is the acquisition of appropriate evaluation language.

Where would you like to go next?

JUROR HOME PAGE

1. General Procedures

2. Evaluation Procedure

3. Guidelines: Working with Young Jurors

4. Criteria for Accepting/Rejecting Titles

5. The Evaluation Form

6. Talk to Us