Monday, November 18, 2013

How can I tell if a movie, TV show, book or game is appropriate for my child?

Every parent makes choices about how their child consumes media, and what they are allowed to watch or read. But how can you learn what is appropriate for your child without having to watch or read everything in advance? Common Sense Media to the rescue!

I discovered this website when I was looking for a longer movie to watch with my daughter. A couple of friends had recommended Finding Nemo, a perfectly appropriate movie for some 4-year-olds to watch with their parents, but we quickly discovered that it was not right for OUR 4-year-old. Our daughter was extremely sensitive to tense situations in movies and TV shows, and she was terrified for the poor little fish who seemed to get into one harrowing situation after another. Hoping to find something longer than 22 minutes that we could enjoy together, I Googled "age appropriate movies" and came up.

This website is run by a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, providing trustworthy information and tools as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume. Common Sense Media rates movies, TV shows, books, music and apps. An expert reviewer gives their opinion on the content and gives the media a sliding scale rating of how appropriate it is for what ages and why. Content is rated using criteria including educational value positive messages, positive role models, violence & scariness, sexy stuff, language, consumerism and drinking, drugs, & smoking.

On top of the expert opinion, parents can give their opinions as well. While these user opinions are not always helpful, they are sometimes very insightful. I've chosen to skip certain shows that the expert mentioned would be fine because of parent comments along these lines, "While I see how this movie can be fine for some kids of this age, my sensitive child was very scared of the witch that appears half way into the movie."

I have not used the website for media other than TV or movies, and not all shows are represented on the site, but in short, Common Sense Media can be a very useful tool for parents and caregivers.


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