As a rule we don't pre-screen most of the minions TV and movie watching to ensure that it's "appropriate". It's not that I don't care, it's just I don't have the inclination to sit through more children's programming than I absolutely have to. I am fairly confident that the programming geared towards pre-schoolers available on Netflix kids isn't going to get me into big trouble, to date no one has woken me up with a nightmare about Peppa Pig.
On most Sundays mom and dad get a turn picking a movie that we all watch as a family. We generally select a childhood favourite or something that we've heard is good but haven't seen yet.
Recently this backfired when we decided to watch The Princess and the Frog. We checked out the score on Rotten Tomatoes, which was decent, and figuring that it was a modernish take on the Disney princess formula we all watched together. For a few days after the movie everything was okay, until the nightmares began about The Shadow Man - the movie's main villain. Both children have been convinced that The Shadow Man is lurking around their bedroom late at night, in Jack's case disguised as a giant duck (there are no giant ducks in The Princess and the Frog, so I have no idea where that came from). Epic parental failure. You would think we we'd have learned our lesson about horrifying books and movies after the "Pinocchio Incident" of 2013. While both Chris and I are equipped with nightmare busting best practices it doesn't change the fact that we were awoken by one (or more) blood curdling screams in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
|He looks like a stand-up guy, right?|
So what's a parent to do if they still don't want to pre-screen?
Here are five ways semi-lazy parents can prevent their children from watching inappropriate movies:
1. Look up the show or movie on a website like Common Sense Media to get an idea of the recommended minimum age for the selected programming.
2. Read kid appropriate reviews with a grain of salt...I personally don't care if there is light innuendo in movies or shows that my kids are watching, nor do I object to slightly (pastel shaded) "colourful" language. Decide what you want to monitor for based on your own personal values, not the censors.
3. Know what scares your kids and what doesn't. My kids are totally cool with comeuppance for bad guys (like in The Princess Bride or Frozen), but for the most part want to see something where the good guys win and survive their battles.
4. Evaluate the bad guys and their motives. Molly and Jack are much more accepting of a villain who falls into the category of annoying jerk (Biff from Back to the Future) compared to someone who uses say black magic and implied Satan worship for world domination. I'd say the threshold for bad guy scariness falls somewhere in the spectrum between Ursula the Sea Witch at the low end of the scale and Maleficent as the maximum scary level permitted.
5. Talk to other parents. This is actually a great topic of conversation to pull out at school pick-up in place of the usual awkward small talk about weather. Ask other parents what their child is watching, What their older kids were scared of or about the movie they previewed too early or too late. Ask an opinion about a movie you’re debating watching. If they tell you they don't permit their child to watch movie or TV ask for book recommendations instead. If that doesn’t work, go talk to someone else.
Does anyone have any thoughts on the perfect age to premiere the The Nightmare Before Christmas with their kids? I don't know if I can handle waiting three more years as recommended...