Watching Movies

Young Children Watching Television at Home
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Kids can watch some movies, but they shouldn't watch others . . . which makes watching movies an ongoing balance between what children think is good for them and what you know is good for them. But even when children don't want to watch certain movies, they still need to lean on your decision-making ability. Here is how some parents have navigated this complex arena:

Scare Codes

We came up with a code word for movies that our young kids might find scary, such as the scene with flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. When our kids were with friends, they could use the code word to let us know they were feeling a little nervous about watching a movie, without being embarrassed or teased. The code word also allowed us to covertly tell them that a particular movie will probably be too frightening for them and that they'll have to choose a different one.

—Sara Hague

Evolution and Children’s Programming

My kids love the T rex exhibit at our local museum. They're awed by the enormous height and tiny arms of these creatures. It comes as no surprise to me, then, that television shows such as PBS Kids' "Dinosaur Train" and Nick Jr.'s "Dino Dan" appeal to them.

As a parent who holds a biblical view of Creation, I've often wondered if we should avoid these shows and wait until my kids are old enough to understand the basics of the debate between evolution and intelligent design. Should I expose my young kids to a worldview that teaches chaos and chance rather than plan and purpose? Would the messages of these programs undermine what I'm seeking to teach them?

My husband and I realized that we could use these programs as opportunities to reinforce God as Creator. First, we watch the programs with our children. This allows us to counter dialogue on the show in an age-appropriate manner. For example, we might ask, "Who made the dinosaurs?" To which our kids answer, "God!"

Second, we make sure these television shows aren't our kids' only source of information about dinosaurs. We buy books that explicitly point to God as the Creator of all — including these massive marvels.

Whether our kids are looking at bones or cartoons, we enjoy making the most of teachable moments, pointing our kids to the creative genius behind creatures of enormous height and tiny arms.

—Ashleigh Slater

Media Messages and Siblings

My family and I love Olivia the Pig's can-do attitude and boundless imagination. Yet I do have a bone to pick with this 6-year-old literary pig turned TV star. The television version of Olivia — unlike her picture-book persona — regularly refers to her brother, Ian, as a “little bother.”

Each time I hear this and other incidents of cartoon sibling friction, I cringe and glance at my daughters, hoping they won't come to view one another as nuisances. Life already presents enough opportunities for sibling conflict, and I'd rather have my kids love and respect each other, not demean and devalue one another. So if I find that a particular episode is encouraging my kids to be at odds even more, we take a hiatus from that show.

I'm also intentional about guiding my kids' relationships during play with each other and with friends. They all interact; there’s no segregation by age. This helps them work through developmental differences and abilities so they can see each other not only as siblings, but also as friends.

As much as I may enjoy Olivia, it's more important for me to teach my kids that having a sibling is not a bother, but a blessing.

—Ashleigh Slater

The compiled article “Watching Movies” first appeared on (2016)."Scare Codes" first appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Evolution and Children’s Programming" first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine. "Media Messages and Siblings" first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "No Sibling Bothers." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
“Watching Movies” compiled article © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Scare Codes" © 2016 by Sara Hague. "Evolution and Children’s Programming" and "Media Messages and Siblings" © 2011 by Ashleigh Slater. Used by permission.

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