My husband and I went to see Breaking Dawn, the most recent installment in the Twilight saga on Saturday evening. It wasn’t planned. We had dinner, then decided we’d like to see a movie. It was Breaking Dawn, or Happy Feet 2. So the vampires beat out the penguins and we squeezed ourselves into an overcrowded theater full of teenagers and grown women wearing werewolf t-shirts.
I’ll state for the record that I read the Twilight books. I read them, and enjoyed them. I’ve since seen each of the movies, and while moments of overly dramatic teen angst left me a little nauseous at times, in general, I enjoyed them as well. I’m not a crazy fan. I don’t have a Team Edward shirt. I didn’t go to a midnight showing and I probably won’t ever read the books or see the movies for a second time.
But this post isn’t really about Twilight. Why even mention it? Because I’d like to talk about parenting.
I thought a lot about parenting on Saturday night when, while waiting for the movie to start, I saw parent after parent filing into the movie theater holding hands with their children. Not teenagers. Not even preteens. 8 years old. 10 years old. Children that couldn’t have been much older than 5, maybe 6. Having read the book, I grew more and more uncomfortable with the idea of these children being exposed to what was surely going to be graphically inappropriate. Of course, my mind went first to the sexual relationship that exists between the two main characters of the film. But what of the violence? The death and the anger and the aggression that in every possible way is too much for the eyes and the heart and the mind of a child?
I realize every parent has the right to make a choice about what age their children can watch certain movies. At age 10, our oldest son has watched a handful of carefully screened and considered PG-13 movies that other parents might not be comfortable with. They were decisions we made based on what we know of our son. We watched them together, and discussed them together. I wouldn’t like to feel judged by others if they didn’t necessarily agree with our choice.
But I’m pretty certain there isn’t any way possible to justify a 5 year old watching a movie, that I’ll be perfectly honest, had ME feeling uncomfortable at times. I left the theater shaking my head, wondering how desensitized those five year old girls will be by the time they are teenagers. It hardly seems ridiculous to imagine 12 year olds having sex if they are watching sex at age 5. It isn’t difficult to understand teen violence if you know that children are watching violence when there minds are so very young, so completely impressionable.
Parents, we need to wake up. We cannot stand idly by, justifying, excusing, pretending that it doesn’t really matter and then look back and wonder what ever happened to our kids. Media of today, whether it be music or movies or television can and will ruin our children. It will teach sex. It will teach violence. It will teach self righteous disrespect. And it will happen so fast, parents will be left wondering what ever hit them.
I’m not saying our kids should only ever watch singing dinosaurs and dancing butterflies. While some movies are all together trash no matter the viewing age, there are others that are rich and wonderful and worthy of viewing, when kids are old enough and mature enough to handle them. All I’m saying is we have to be discerning. We have to think and research and ponder things out before we make decisions about what we feed our children’s minds and hearts. Because it matters. So very much, it matters.
And good grief, if you want to go see Breaking Dawn, get a flippin’ babysitter.
Josh and I love to use Common Sense Media and Kids in Mind to screen movies, both for our kids, and our own viewing as well. Common Sense Media gives general age suggestions, with a rough outline of what content you need to be aware of, while Kids in Mind does a play by play breakdown of every word/scene/topic of discussion that could potentially be offensive. Ratings aren’t always reliable. Using these websites, we’ve watched rated R movies that we’ve loved, avoided PG-13 movies that are full of trash, and found PG movies that we are comfortable with for the entire family, 4 year olds included.