It’s no secret that I have a movie theatre for a television and that we enjoy watching movies at home. But I’m also the parent of a small child and we have a fairly strict policy of what we allow our child to view. Still, we enjoy getting cozy on the couch for a good family movie. So the issue becomes WHAT to watch. The challenge is to find movies that are clean and appropriate for her while at the same time are able to hold my interest.
As I said, we’re careful about what television shows she sees. I’ve even vetoed some Blue’s Clues episodes because of the way they often handle conflict, encourage entitlement, and promote drama and whininess. And don’t even get me started on The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and how they routinely teach ‘scientific’ principles that defy the laws of physics.
Everything she watches is played off TiVo, giving us the ability to skip over commercials. Although I must admit that it is mostly so we can avoid her falling for kids advertising and wanting every cheap toy that is pushed in her face. So we simply remove the pushing. We also don’t watch any non-kids shows when she is around, which basically amounts to ‘when she is awake.’ And if the TV is playing live-tv, it’s always on the food channel – which has proven to be a completely kid-safe channel.
For movies, as a general rule I believe in the MPAA rating system. G-rated movies are probably fine for her. Â PG, or Parental Guidance, means that it might or might not be appropriate – and we need to pre-view the movie to know if it’s cool before she sees it. And I figure she can probably watch PG-13 movies when she’s 13 – but we’ll see when we get there. With only G movies to choose from, the short list gets stale fast. The problem with the PG rating is that it’s too wide a range – movies can be fine for 6 year olds or barely appropriate for 12 year olds. Overall I think there is a serious shortage of good family movies. And it’s a genre that is not target by indie film makers, which is why I have a passion to try to eventually fill that gap. Â But I digress…
Every now and then we take “G” to Best Buy to pick out a new movie, but most of the time we leave empty handed – unable to find anything that fits both criteria of A) being something I want to watch AND B) is also appropriate for her to see. For example one day I noticed ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ was on the cheap isle and considered getting it (even though it was DVD and not BD) but didn’t when I saw that it was PG. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it and I just can’t remember much about the content. I knew it was about some kids get who shrunk down, and there’s a giant ant, but couldn’t remember if they used any choice “PG” language that I don’t want her picking up and repeating at her Christian school. So I didn’t buy it.
Then recently I stumbled on Common Sense Media, which is a web site devoted to helping inform parents so they can make decisions about what is and isn’t appropriate for their kids. I’ve seen other sites that do this, but I really like the way that CommonSenseMedia.org handles it. They attempt to give the movie a specific age rating rather than just the general MPAA rating.
Of course any rating system is subjective and depends on the values and standards of the person doing the rating. But their system gets you into a ballpark and give you explanations for why they gave it the rating they did. It also helps to read their page about their ratings.
Every child is different and every parent is going to have a different way at looking at things as well. For us some language is an issue because of the school thing, and we know that scariness can be an issue for our child as well. Looking at their reviews of a few movies I’ve seen and already have opinions about gave me a good idea of how close their system is to OUR reality. Here’s a couple quick examples:
Bolt – Is rated PG and Common Sense gives it a 5. The only issue for us was the fire scene at the end. Â They mention it although they don’t stress enough how perilous it is. It makes me wish that they separated their Violence and Scariness section.
Monsters vs Aliens – Is also rated PG Â and Common Sense gives it a 7. They peg violence, scariness and language – and I suppose they are correct.
Ice Age 2 – The Meltdown – Also rated PG, Common Sense gives it a 6. I actually stopped this movie early on and didn’t allow my daughter to watch it. This one I think they’re off. They don’t peg language enough and completely miss mentioning the “DAM!” joke and don’t stress the scariness enough. (those underwater monsters are scary.)
Honey I Shrunk the Kids faired well, and now I know that, at least according to Common Sense, language isn’t an issue. Now if the movie will only come out on Bluray I can buy it and watch it with my daughter.
Of course parents should probably watch movies before letting their kids watch them, but at least Common Sense Media is a start to weeding out certain flicks beforehand. And in a case of “Honey…” it jogged my memory about a movie I had already seen.