Choosing Films for Your Child

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Parenting
Is the regular trip to the neighborhood video store or the downtown multiplex with your child starting to feel like an exercise in parental perplexity? If so, then there is no need to blame yourself. Combined with family-oriented classics, straight-to-video releases and childrens documentaries released by niche production companies, the sheer volume of movies aimed at young audiences is enough to make Mom and Dad long for the good old days of 1960s-era Walt Disney features about animals, princes and paupers, and fairy godmothers. Fortunately, quality childrens films are not limited to movies that star Mickey Mouse or Peter Pan. In fact, there are many childrens movies that not only entertain, but also impart the right values and paint an accurate picture of the world in which we live. The following guide can help you decide which movies are appropriate for your child.

Check the rating or classification. The ratings system used by the Motion Picture Association of America classifies movies based on the amount of violence, sex, nudity, strong language, and drug use your children will see or hear. Ratings offer advance information about movies so that parents can decide what films they want their children to see. However, do not rely on ratings alone to determine whether or not a movie is suitable for your child. Movie reviews in family-friendly publications can be a reliable source of information about film content. When in doubt, watch the movie yourself before taking your child to see it.

Movies must be age-appropriate. Children of different age groups and developmental stages do not respond similarly to visual content. A PG-rated movie may affect a seven-year-old differently than it would a 13-year-old. Make sure that the movie deals with a subject matter that your child is old enough to comprehend. For instance, a movie that discourages violence does not have to be gory or very frightening. Good childrens movies tackle sensitive issues and themes from a childs point of view, while enhancing the childs understanding and experience.

Choose movies that present truth and diversity. Movies should expand your childs horizons and increase their awareness of how people live, relate, and solve problems. Movies with accurate representations of diverse groups of people can provide truthful insights on the different ways that people go about their daily lives. Is the stepmother depicted as a devious, scheming grouch? Does the movie make fun of people with disabilities? Avoid films that reinforce negative stereotypes or make a mockery of diversity.

Examine the kind of values that the movie teaches. Based on film reviews and your own experience of watching the movie, can you identify what values the movie seeks to impart to its young audiences? Good family movies should teach children the importance of honesty, respect, charity, tolerance, and hard work. Does the movie condemn violence as a means to resolve conflicts, or does it glorify crime as an acceptable route to fame and fortune? Quality childrens movies must truthfully show the consequences of the characters actions and decisions.
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