It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide if a certain movie is a good movie for your child to watch. Family Movie Reviews and values vary widely on what is appropriate for a child and what is the best way to filter movies your children want to watch. How do you decide what is the best movie for YOUR child to watch? We have some ideas below. Read them and let us know what you think by commenting below.
If you’ve been to the doctor with your children, you’ve heard this in some way:
The American Association of Pediatrics “recommends that parents establish ‘screen-free’ zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play. Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens. (AAP website)
I agree with this in principle. Some parts I do great (no TV’s in bedrooms, etc), but I know I struggle with others. My children certainly watched TV before age 2. I tried to be careful what I chose, but who hasn’t needed a shower? Who hasn’t needed a mental break? Once you get more than one child, how do you keep the younger ones away? I’m just glad my children were over age two before that guideline came out because I didn’t deal with the guilt today’s parents do. There are a few reassuring things. Entertainment media isn’t the same as computer work for school. While my doctor might sometimes disagree, I think this is an important distinction for older kids. If we count their time on the computer for school work against them, they will surely hold it against us. Of course, you’re naïve if you think that your teenage child isn’t throwing in a bit of chat during homework, but who among us is that dedicated and focused at all times either?
Also, how do you choose appropriately but also let them be part of common society? I can’t preview everything. If I don’t let them watch anything, they feel left out when their friends are talking about shows they’ve seen. While adults are less worried about whether people like them for what they’ve seen, kids really want to feel like they fit in. As for how to choose what to let my children watch, I don’t claim to be an expert or a professional—only a parent of four children. As I’ve gone through this process, though, I’ve learned a few things. Maybe something that has worked for me can also work for you.
Here are some ideas for you: <span style=”fon t-family: Calibri,serif;”>Age Matters, Ratings and Reviews, Personality Matters, Learn From Experience, Practical Rules, You Are the Best Judge
This is common sense, but it still needs to be said. What I let my children watch completely depends on their age. My 15 year-old and my 12 year-old boys are interested in different things than my 10 year-old and 7 year-old girls are (funny enough, they’ll still watch the Barbie videos the girls adore even though they claim to ‘hate’ them). It’s more than interest, though. It’s also maturity. Have you ever thought about how they understand the movies they see? I’m not talking about educational programming, like Sesame Street or Leap Frog. There’s usually very little there to complain about. I’m talking about other shows, especially as they get older.
My first experience came when my oldest was almost five. We took him to the dollar theater to watch Cats and Dogs. We thought we were giving him a great treat. Halfway through the movie, he was hysterical. The “bad” kitties terrified him. After they took over the world, they were going to hurt him too. Up until this time, the scariest movie he’d seen was Elmo in Grouchland, and he wasn’t prepared for the fighting. He didn’t know that cats can’t really talk and they can’t take over the world. He didn’t know that the movie was humanizing animals, giving them traits that only people possess (that’s called anthropomorphism—I looked it up). Not only were we very careful about movies for a while, but it took a bit to get him to like animals again. He just didn’t know it wasn’t real.
Another example–My oldest daughter is very tall, and she tends to have friends older than she is because her size makes her seem bigger. I remember when she was 6 and playing with an 8 year-old girl in the neighborhood. She idolized the older friend and wanted to do everything she did. When her friend watched Hannah Montana, she wanted to watch it. I previewed it once, thought it looked silly but harmless, and I decided to check some DVD’s out from the library for her. After a few weeks of her watching them, I noticed behavior I didn’t like. She was getting mouthy. She thought that it was OK to be sneaking and telling secrets. I realized that while I knew that the silly lies to keep Hannah Montana’s identity secret were just fiction, my daughter didn’t know that shows exaggerate behavior. She thought that sneaking behind parents and hiding things was OK because she’d seen it on TV. Instead, I turned her toward the Brady Bunch and Full House. I found ones that didn’t portray parents as clueless, where parents were still to be respected, and where consequences of bad behavior were clearer. A newer one I like is Good Luck Charlie. Most of all, I try to understand anything from a kids’ point of view.
My kids stream shows on Netflix now too. When they keep coming to me tattling on each other, I tell them to stop acting like Candace on Phineas and Ferb. If they don’t, I have them stop watching it for a while. They’ve also watched Jessie and A.N.T. Farm. I’m not always thrilled, but because they’re older, I just point out what I think is ridiculous and out of line. That seems to help.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against either Cats and Dogs or Hannah Montana. I have something against anything inappropriate for their age. If a child is too young to determine the difference between reality and fiction, they need to be protected from what would scare them and what would lead them to bad behavior.
A movie might be appropriate at age 10 that isn’t when they’re younger. I have made my children wait to see movies, perhaps longer than other parents, because I wanted to be sure they would be able to deal with what they were seeing. When you’ve already had a child hysterical over what you thought was a harmless movie, you learn to be careful. When my boys wanted to watch Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings, I made them wait. I told them that there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the movies, but that they had violent images that I didn’t think they were ready for. I explained that once those things get in your head, they never get out. So, I wanted to make sure they could handle it first.
Ratings and Reviews
I use the ratings for a lot of guidelines, but I don’t let them rule my life. . Remember me mentioning Pirates and Lord of the Rings? My boys assumed that PG13 was automatic permission once they were that magic age. I quickly broke that notion and explained that ratings were guidelines, not rules. In our family we choose not to see R-rated movies, as a matter of principle. I explained that I was old enough, but that I made a choice not to fill my head with things that (again) I couldn’t ever get rid of. I also explained that there were a lot of PG13 movies I also chose not to see because I didn’t want to see certain things.
How do I deal with what to let my kids see, especially now that the age limits are hitting? First I rely on reviews. My favorite online reviews come from Mommy Bear Media, Common Sense Media, Screen It, Kids In Mind, and Parent Previews. These are some of the more popular ones. All it takes is searching “movie reviews for parents” online. Lots of different sites exist, and I’ve found that using more than one gives me a better picture. What I like most, though, is asking my friends. They know me; they know my kids; and they know my values. I often get a better feel for how I’m going to feel while watching a movie. I ask them about things I’ve read in reviews, and they tell me what they thought. Use friends, particularly if they go to movies faster than you do.
This post will be continued so check back for Part 2!