A Solo Mom’s guide to entertainment reviews
I distinctly remember the first time I watched a movie rated R. I was at a friend’s house, and her mom specifically asked me if it was OK for me to watch it. I lied and said it was. My mother, like most mothers, had that sixth sense that alerted her to what I was doing before I did it, and on returning home, I was grilled about the movie, lied about it, and found myself promptly grounded.
Now, as a mother, I realize that my mother was looking out for me. She was pretty strict on what I was allowed to watch and with whom. Her goal was to protect me, to help me figure out what was appropriate and what wasn’t. She wasn’t trying to be mean (though at the time I thought she was); rather, she was preparing me for the moments when my children asked to watch things they shouldn’t.
Luckily, I still have those memories and my mom to call on when my kids ask me questions I’m not sure how to answer. There are so many resources available to help parents figure out what, in fact, is appropriate for our children. It is unrealistic to think I’d be able to watch each show and movie, listen to each track on an album, read each book, and play each video game before they did, so here are some thoughts on how to get those opinions without driving yourself crazy.
What options do you have for reviewing media?
Friends and family. Just as in other areas of life, relying on the opinions of trusted friends and family members is a great way to have “eyes and ears” everywhere. You could easily ask a friend who saw a particular movie her thoughts on whether it may be appropriate for your children. Doing so will probably give you a wider net with which to watch, read, or listen to everything before allowing your children to. But keep in mind that each person’s view on what is appropriate will vary.
Online reviews. Online entertainment guides are a great resource for reading about movies, games, books, and music before making a decision. Common Sense Media and Plugged In tend to run on the conservative side, while Box Office Mom and Kids in Mind focus more on giving you the information and letting you make the decisions accordingly. These sites rate movies based on language, sexual scenes, substance abuse, and violence. Each site gives you a quick summary from which you can solidly base your opinion.
Thoughts from other Solo Moms. Military Solo Mom Kim R. uses Common Sense Media and really digs into the reviews. “I read the reviews carefully to understand what qualifies under each rating,” she explains. Her child is 14, and Kim uses these reviews for movies, TV, and books.
Both Startlett H. and Jessica R. use Plugged In. Startlett loves the breakdown of each review, including the heads up each provides on foul language and spiritual content. “I use it [not only] for the kids (ages 13 and 20) but also to help me decide if I want to watch something,” she says. Jessica, who has children ranging in age from six to 17, agrees: “The reviews give a detailed breakdown by content so you can decide for yourself what is appropriate.”
Stick to the ratings. One option is to firmly stick to the ratings—without wavering at all—so if your child isn’t 13, he or she cannot watch PG-13 movies. Although this is an easy approach (after your child gets used to it), it may not be the best. We know there are some great PG-13 movies that are appropriate for younger children as well as some PG movies with content we may not want to have to explain to our younger children. So although this is an easy way to implement rules, it may not always work in your favor.
Why should you review beforehand?
I’m sure some Solo Moms are very comfortable allowing their children or teenagers to make these decisions themselves, and one day that will be me. But with young, impressionable children, I want to make sure they are not going to be scared or confused when watching a movie. I consider it part of my job to direct them toward age-appropriate content, both in music and on the big screen.
Part of the process is teaching them what is and isn’t appropriate for them in all situations. For example, my eight-year-old son may want to play a violent video game such as Call of Duty. I would consider this to be OK when playing with a responsible adult, in a controlled environment, and not right before bed. I would not consider it OK to play at a sleepover or with other children.
Another example was when the live-action Beauty and the Beast hit theaters. I carefully reviewed the claims that it was inappropriate for children, which turned out to be so far from the truth, and took my six-year-old daughter. We both loved it. In the end, take the information available or don’t—you know your kids best.
Have you seen any great movies with your kids lately?
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.