A couple of Fridays ago, my family and I were trying to settle on a movie to watch after dinner. With four children spanning the ages of 14 to 6 years old, something simple like, “let’s have family movie night,” turned into a frustrating situation; trying to find a film enjoyable to all, let alone one that is developmentally appropriate, seemed nearly impossible. And because it was a long week and we were all short on patience, we settled on our go-to back-up, Chopped, on Food Network.
After putting my younger daughters to bed, and my fourteen-year-old twins, husband and I started to talk about movies we should plan to see and make a list so that we wouldn’t have the chaos of indecision. One of the twins, a Steven King fan, has read a couple of his books, requesting if the four of us could watch The Shining.
As an adult, I saw the Shining and the movie was disturbing, on so many levels, which I said, absolutely not. And my husband said, “It’s fine, the movie isn’t that bad.” My husband has a high tolerance for scary movies and thrillers, me, not so much. I can’t watch movies with disturbing content, especially violence. I hear so much in my profession, when it comes to entertainment, I want happy, feel good comedies or thought-provoking dramas. Quickly I said,”Uh, no, they’re too young, and I can back it up with why.”
Grabbing my computer, I pulled up Common Sense Media, a web resource, which I love. As my daughters, husband and I looked through the site; we had a fun, lively discussion looking up movies the twins were interested in and seeing what could be a go and what would be a no, an absolute no.
Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization with a mission to help children thrive in a world of technology and media. The organization’s website has sections for parents, teachers, and policymakers to help navigate the technological and media world through providing unbiased information and tools to help consumers navigate personal decisions and choices. What I love about this site; it provides information without encouraging censorship. The site all about presenting the facts through the lens of child development and helpful ratings. Each movie (or app, game, etc.) is given a score based on positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs, and smoking. And visitors can also leave reviews; many parents, children, and teens leave thoughtful and helpful comments on movies, games, and apps.
There’s a lot of great information on CommonSenseMedia.org, and I encourage you to check the site out. Some areas I found most helpful as a parent is the Family Guide tab, where you can view a breakdown movies, books, apps, and television specifically by age group and developmental stage. There is also a category called, Parent Concerns. In this area, you’ll find answers to a broad range of topics from recommended amount of screen time by age, information on cyberbullying, character and life skills, and information on technology and addiction.
And if you have tweens and teens who have an iPhone or other devices, there is a section all devoted solely to apps, with hundreds listed, so you can feel somewhat in the loop with the apps your child requests to use. I found it interesting that SnapChat, a popular app for some middle schoolers and high schoolers, has a recommended age of 16+.
The site also has a helpful printable Family Media Agreement and Device Contract. There are several variations of the contract, depending on the academic grade of your child; Kingergarten-5th Grade, 6th-8th Grade, and 9th through 12th grade. Each contract has three parts; staying safe, thinking first, and staying balanced with media and technology. And there is customizable worksheet with great conversation starters on a bunch of technology-related use.
In the world of navigating technology, as parents, I think we all need as much help as possible to be on top of the ever-changing landscape of technology and media. This site will help you make informed decisions about some of the content in media your child is exposed to. I hope you find it as useful as it is to our family.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017