Everyone loves a Friday night. The work week is finished. It’s time to relax and spend some time with family. And what better way to spend it than by starting a movie and letting the action (or whatever genre you like) play on? But what genres are appropriate for the younger audiences in your life? How can you set standards for yourself and your family?
Some of you may already feel uncomfortable or even threatened—like I’m going to list a bunch of movies you shouldn’t watch with your kids. That’s not the case at all! I’m not going to tell you how to parent or lead younger audiences. Every kid is different, and every family is different. But as followers of Christ, there are some general truths and standards we can think through when we’re deciding what media to introduce to our family.
But here’s the thing. The goal of a good movie marathon shouldn’t always be shielding your kids from culture but helping them see culture through a compassionate, biblical perspective. Yet we are also instructed by God to guard our hearts. How can we navigate this fine line? Ultimately we must realize that our standard has no comparison to God’s.
Here are some themes we can look for when searching for appropriate movies for ourselves and our kids that might even help spark some great conversations:
1. Look for age-appropriate language. Watching our tongue is an important command God gives us (see 1 Peter 3:10, Colossians 4:6 and plenty in Proverbs), and in case you haven’t noticed, kids repeat a lot of the things they see or hear. If you don’t want your child to use foul language, choose films that don’t have that element. When I was younger, my parents tried to watch the movies beforehand so they could slyly mute any curse words during the movie. And if one slipped past them, they would ignore it (because if you don’t draw attention to it, it’s more likely to go unnoticed). Of course, this is at the parents’ discretion. Every child is different. And every parent is, too! Just remember, God is not changeable. His Word is the same truth forever (Isaiah 40:8).
2. Watch movies that invite questions and conversations. At an appropriate age, you may choose movies that introduce themes your child has never experienced before. A great example is the movie Wonder. If you haven’t seen it, the movie is about a kid who tries to fit in school but looks different than everyone else. Introducing this movie to school-aged kids who may come across similar situations can teach them about loving people who don’t look exactly like them. Or how to look past their physical bodies and look at the heart, just as Jesus did. Choosing movies that spark conversation within your whole family is a great way to help kids grow, and it may even give you a new perspective because we can learn a lot from kids, too! John 8:32 tells us that “the truth will set you free.” We can introduce God’s truth to younger audiences by providing them with appropriate films to watch. And even if a movie doesn’t get it exactly right, you can still use it to initiate truth-based conversations. Ask your kids what they think about the themes of movies. Talk about what Jesus may tell us about that topic. It’s a great way to help them learn to apply God’s truth into areas of their lives besides church.
3. Keep to media that your child is comfortable watching. As I mentioned earlier, my parents monitored what I watched carefully, previewing films that had more mature content and deciding if they were appropriate for me to watch or not. That may seem like helicopter parenting to some people, but I was a fairly sensitive child. I didn’t enjoy watching scenes with scary characters in them. I showed a lot of emotion during sad scenes (a trait I picked up from my dad, which I still have today). I didn’t like a lot of arguing or the mistreatment of others. My parents were aware of this, and that’s why they were cautious of the films I watched. Some children may be able to handle scarier movies, and some of the more violent scenes that would have bothered me at a younger age wouldn’t bother others. You know your child best, so decide what healthy media looks like for their unique temperament and needs.
The wisdom my parents taught me through limiting what I watched helps me even now as a young adult. Now, I intentionally choose to limit watching TV or movies that go against God’s Word and will. God already has set standards, and now that I make my own decisions as an adult, I am able to follow them in obedience. When we set standards for what we watch, we can enjoy and even give God the glory during our movie marathons.
God is always working for our best interests. We cannot find joy in the things of this world. That’s why there’s such a stark contrast between His standards and the standards of this world. In the end, we will only find true joy in Christ. In fact, there’s a great verse about this in Romans:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
Watching what we watch may seem like a small step, but it makes a huge difference. God’s standards are beyond our own, and they are always helpful, always loving, and always perfect. When we choose to set standards in line with God’s standards, we and our families can continue to grow in Christ.