Focusing on family movies

Monday, April 13, 2009

Since the days of the first movie serials and double features that would open with a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the movies have been a part of Americana.

We can't get enough of movie stars, the Internet is loaded with trailers and movie news, and every weekend, millions of Americans take that time-honored stroll through those velvet ropes -- down the aisle that's lit from the floor -- to a plush seat looking up to that giant silver screen.

But many believe that as the movies reflect more of the violence, sexuality, drug use and corruptive influences found in our society, they are ceasing to be an experience that families can enjoy together.

Following are tips for parents looking for ways to allow their families to enjoy cinema that is consistent with their family's values:

*Choose the morals and standards you want to live by -- Examine the ideas and concepts that are important to you, and that you want to pass on to your children. Before you understand what you don't want in a movie, you really need to come to terms with the things that you DO want. Make your choices your standards, and use them as the guidelines to navigate your family's movie wish list.

*Regulate ALL media that you and your family experience -- For all the people who want to ban certain films and television shows, the truth is that it is far easier to simply choose and guide what your own family watches. Movies that feature more sex or violence than we would like will always be around. We simply don't have to watch them -- the natural extension of that is being a vigilant parent who knows not only what your kids are doing, but also what they are watching.

*Reinforce positive influences and minimize the negative -- Short of editing the movies yourselves, you likely won't eliminate all vestiges of the negative elements of modern movies. Talk to your kids about some of the things that they see, and ensure they understand the context of the actions. Silence in the presence of harmful examples is an implied endorsement.

*Trust your feelings -- Movies more than entertain. They touch our emotions, so if we are previewing a movie, and it feels wrong (or right), chances are it is. These are individual choices, and we need to trust our gut sometimes.

*Use movies to complement dreams, interests and talents -- Since we already know that children emulate what they see on film and television, why not expose them to a diet of movies that actually inspires them and speaks to interests and talents they may already exhibit? One of the most valuable things movies do for us is that they take us to new places and show us things we might never see on our own, allowing us to live our dreams vicariously through the cinematic experience. When we choose movies that connect to our aspirations, the potential for inspiration is limitless.