Going to the movies with kids can be tough these days. From toilet humor to foul language, questionable ethics and veiled drug references geared to “entertain” the parents, you can easily get more than you bargained for, even with PG-rated flicks. (Do they even make G-rated movies anymore?)
Case in point: We took our daughter to see Madagascar 3 last summer. Before the film started, they showed a “Summer Movie Preview,” showcasing the hottest movies of the summer. Many of the segments included heavy gunfire and overall mayhem and destruction. But the most shocking of all was a clip from Rock of Ages, showing strippers pole dancing. Pole dancing. In a preview to a PG movie my 4 year old was watching. I felt a full-out assault on our children’s innocence in full swing.
I complained to the management about how completely inappropriate that was, only to be told, “Corporate made it and they show it before every movie.” As if that made it right. Needless to say, I was afraid to take her to any more movies that summer. She was only 4, and I just don’t want her seeing that stuff. I want her to know that she is worth SO much more than that. Women don’t gain value through sex. Having men admire your barely-clothed body does not make you worthy.
So what’s a parent to do? Few of us have time to watch every movie before our kids see them – either in the theaters or at home. While we can’t control the previews that are shown on the big screen, we can decide whether the content of the movie itself is appropriate for our children. After that Madagascar incident, I started doing some research, and found a resource that can help.
ClubHouseMagazine.com, a division of Focus on the Family, contains honest reviews of the content of movies. Unlike traditional reviews which tell you whether the plot has holes the size of the Grand Canyon, www.ClubHouseMagazine.com tells you what messages are conveyed (both positive and negative) and any pitfalls to look out for (such as toilet humor, foul language, or specific types of violence).
By taking note of the themes presented in each movie (such as the importance of family, feeling different than your peers, or dealing with bullies), you can begin discussions with your kids that reinforce or contradict messages from the movies they watch. Having these discussions increases your child’s media literacy and critical viewing skills. They learn to not merely accept what they see and hear in media as the truth, but to question it and compare those messages to your own family’s values.
If it’s true that “more is caught than taught,” it’s never too early to teach them to filter the messages they receive, and to take every opportunity to reinforce your own family’s values over those of our culture.
Need help starting these discussions? Check out my book, The Magic of Family Meals, for great conversation starters that get your kids thinking about family values, media influences, and more.