For adult television viewers, commercials are an interruption in regular programming, a time to break away for a trip to the refrigerator or an invitation to channel surf. For children, a commercial is part of the show. Studies indicate children under 7 pay as much attention to commercials as regular programming. Few kids understand the purpose of a commercial; they don't watch TV with the critical eye of older viewers.
Helping children become critics of what they see on the small screen is a goal of the Maryland Campaign for Kids' TV, which released its first "report card" on local TV. "Report Card '93" is the work of community teams, each of which adopted a station in order to monitor the quality, quantity, timing and variety of its programming for children. The D+ grade reflects the teams' conclusion that, overall, the stations are "seriously deficient" in their attention to good programming for children and adolescents. Some stations have little decent programming; others air quality shows at times like 5:30 a.m. when few youngsters are likely to watch.