Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movies: What to Know Before You Show

A friend of mine recently complained on Facebook: "Took my son to see [the movie] We Bought A Zoo. Wish I had known they'd use every four-letter word in the book."

I've been in that situation. I've relied on movie ratings and advertisements, or even "thumbs up" from my friends, to persuade me to let my kids watch a movie. But all too frequently I didn't have enough information before I turned the movie on.

There is a way to help parents understand what they are getting into - before they agree to show it. The people behind Common Sense Media have reviewed hundreds of movies (and games and apps too, by the way). The movie reviews include a summary, a recommended age minimum (Zoo's age is 12, my friend's son is 6), comments from other parents who have seen the movie, and rankings on these key issues:
  • Positive messages
  • Positive role models
  • Violence
  • Sex
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking, drugs and smoking
If you agree to a movie and you are still uncertain about upcoming scenes, consider using the "fast forward" option when watching the movie at home. (My own children are especially sensitive to scary scenes, and we agree in advance that I can fast forward through scenes that are going to bother them.) And when those awkward or scary moments still come up, talk about what you just saw. It can be a wonderful teaching opportunity.

Common Sense Media's review system is a wonderful tool to help you as a parent avoid those awkward or regretful moments during a movie when you are saying to yourself, "I wish I had known that was coming!" Use the guide to consider your own "hot button" topics as a parent, and use intuition about what your child can handle. Don't be afraid to say "no" to a movie, or "Let's wait until you're a little older; let's pick something else to watch." It will make for a much more enjoyable family movie experience for everyone.

Note: Although I've signed up, an account to the Common Sense Media site is not required. Just close out the pop-up asking for registration.

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