Should I let my kids watch this? 10 tips for demanding parents

When I was a kid, my parents had to monitor a few avenues of entertainment: a few channels on TV (we didn’t have cable), radio, CDs, and VHS movie rentals.

Not so today. With the advent of the internet, streaming, and personal devices, media options have grown exponentially. It can be overwhelming for Christian parents to discern what they they should see, much less what their children should see.

How do parents handle the tension of wanting to protect their children from harmful content while avoiding legalism that can backfire? As you disciple your children through the mind-boggling number of options at their fingertips, what considerations might guide your approach? While certainly not exhaustive, here are 10 things that might help.

1. Examine values, not just ranking.

The MPAA rating and the amount of profanity, sex, and violence in the media is something parents should definitely investigate, with the help of resources like IMDB’s parenting guides, Common Sense MediaY movie guide. But when researching a potential series or movie for your child, it’s important to go beyond “curse counting” and also consider the more subtle messages and values ​​at play. It doesn’t matter how many times someone says, “It’s just an entertaining movie! Don’t think about it too much!” the fact remains: every movie or series has a message or at least an implicit worldview that drives its narrative. Even movies about police puppies, Legos and talking cars. The best way to assess values? See for yourself first. But if you don’t have time for that, practice the next point.

2. Listen to parents, leaders, and critics you trust.

Busy parents seldom have time to see things us we want to see, let alone preview something our kids want to see. It’s okay. Chances are someone in your network has seen it and can talk about its content. Consider joining or starting a Facebook group (or some other online forum) where like-minded Christian parents can share knowledge and advice about children’s media. Listen to trusted pastors and leaders when they warn about something in pop culture or recommend something beneficial. And find conservative Christian film and TV critics (we exist!) and read our reviews.

3. Distinguish between ‘not safe, but good’ and ‘safe, but not good’.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan is famous for not being “safe”, but good. It’s an idea that can inform all aspects of discipleship, including our media habits. “Safe” doesn’t always equal “good.” Many Christian parents may assume that anything rated G or free of “objectionable content” is “safe” and appropriate for their children. But many “safe” shows and movies are no good. Their underlying values ​​are unstable, or simply not good in the qualitative sense: produced cheaply, lacking in beauty or creativity. Similarly, some really great and beautiful content, with strong themes celebrating kindness and virtue, can contain some “unsafe” elements that give parents pause. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, the latter content could end up being more beneficial than the former.

4. ‘Educational’ content is not automatically good for your child.

Sometimes we can assume that anything “educational,” whether it’s a Netflix show that teaches the ABCs, a PBS series that teaches potty training, or even Christian educational content, is automatically good for our kids. Certainly much of it is! To the extent that educational entertainment arouses curiosity and learning in real world (for example, nature documentaries that make a child want to go to the zoo or plant a garden), can be great. But even educational content can be addictive. end in itself for some children. And some Christian educational content is self-righteous, theologically dubious, or useless in its application. Also, some educational content is agenda-driven or politically motivated, so do some research if you have any suspicions about who is producing the content and why.

5. Direct your child to content that sparks curiosity.

Don’t minimize the value of wonder and imagination to your child’s spiritual development. Just like fantasy novels like Narnia either Lord of the Rings they are valuable because they transport us to fantastical worlds, notwithstanding this, there is also value in means that expand your child’s imagination and fuel their curiosity. Entertainment and escapism are not bad things, especially for children. It is good for them to be wide-eyed and amazed when they are watching television or in a movie theater, especially if it leads them to a greater knowledge and appreciation of the mysterious and majestic world that God created.

6. Direct your child to content that cultivates love for God and people.

Intakes shape our loves. This is why the composition of our media diet (not only for children but also for us adults) is important. As you talk to your kids about what media they’re consuming, help them think about this. what are they loving plus or loving less as a result of watching a particular movie or show? And for Christians, called to love the Lord our God and also our neighbor (Matt. 22:36–40), how are we choosing content that helps us obey these great commandments?

Many children’s movies or shows, for example, deal primarily with the message of oneself-love: embrace your identity and love yourself. But Christian love is directed primarily upward and outward. What stories can help train our loves in those addresses?

7. Don’t let the algorithm choose for your child.

Streaming media algorithms are disturbingly sophisticated. Leave your kids alone on Netflix or YouTube, and the “watch next” recommendations will become increasingly compelling, pinpointing exactly what your child loves to watch. But as much as artificial intelligence can decipher your child’s consumption patterns, it can’t determine what is Okay for the wisdom of your son. Avoid letting your viewing journey go where the algorithm suggests, without parental supervision. Consider using YouTube Kids or parental controls on Netflix, Disney+, first video, AppleTV+, And so on. Get more involved than algorithms in selecting content for your child.

8. Assess your child’s age and maturity.

The suitability of media content varies depending on the age and maturity of your child. Rather than rely on TV-14 or PG-13 style ratings, go with what you know about your child’s preparation. What are her unique temptations and triggers? What gives you bad dreams? Also consider your spiritual maturity and your biblical literacy. The more confident you are in your child’s understanding of what is good and true, as revealed in God’s Word, the more freedom you can give what they see, knowing they can call on biblical wisdom as they evaluate the messages they encounter. Conversely, if your child has a weak understanding of biblical truth, be more careful about what he sees. Don’t send them into the fray without armor.

9. Find content you can enjoy together.

In this era of privatized media consumption (it’s called the YoTelephone/YoPad for a reason), we put on our headphones, disappear into our room and leave. this is bad for everybody us, but it is especially dangerous for children. Set a precedent in your home for watching content together. Host movie nights. Choose content that connects with the regular flow of your family’s life. Going on a family trip to a national park? Clock Ken Burns documentary series as preparation. Do you love to cook together with your children? Watch shows about food, cooking, and baking. Instead of everyone in the family going their separate ways on their own devices, find things you can watch together.

10. Limit screen time.

Even if we are consuming solid and nutritious content, it can still be bad for us in excess. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. We need breaks. Encourage screen-free rhythms in your home. But instead of focusing on the negative message (put your phone away!), help your child see the value of other activities: reading books, going outside, craft time, church, Bible reading, rest, silence, prayer. Sometimes the best answer to, Is it okay to see this? it is, Sure, but there are actually better things we could be doing with our time.. Shepherd your child to know what those best things are and eventually choose them first, of his own free will.

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