Book titles: Title by Author
e.g. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Movie listings: Title (YEAR; Actors or Director)
e.g. Stranger than Fiction (2006; Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson)
Music: Song Title (Artist)
e.g. Simple Pleasures (Bobby McFerrin)
Scripture: Bible Reference – First Line of Text
e.g. 1 Corinthians 13:13 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…
What makes a good story?
Offensive vs. Dangerous
Protecting the Innocent (Stories for Very Young Children)
All research points to avoiding television and movies as much as possible for the first few years of life. After that, through about age six, children are very sensitive developmentally and it is best to avoid problematic material and protect their innocence – especially in the matters of violence and sexual content. Though it’s fair to keep in mind that some things will just go over the heads of little ones, they generally understand more than we think they do. Most of the distinctions I make in the rest of this section apply to older children who are able to understand some subtleties in characters and not necessarily imitate whatever they see.
Bawdy Humor & Age Appropriateness
Yes, there are times when too much is too much, but on the whole I’ve made my peace with a certain amount of age-appropriate bawdy humor in today’s stories and movies. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they seem unnecessary. Sometimes they helpfully point to the realness and messiness of life (particularly life with kids!). That said, I have not excluded any titles based on a small to moderate amount of bawdy humor.
I look similarly upon crude language. I expect to have some of it in some stories, especially those involving dire circumstances. It’s real. On the whole, I would prefer to see less of it, but try to keep my sense of humor. When I first let my kids watch Apollo 13 (which is an excellent movie, by the way!) I warned them that they could only see the movie if they realize that they are not allowed to use any of the inappropriate language from it unless they are in a life-and-death situation in outer space.
I had some very worthwhile conversations with my kids about the nature of culture and language after watching The King’s Speech (another great movie!). There is some substantial swearing in this movie (enough to merit an R rating), but to a point.
An important point that we bring up in such discussions, and unfortunately is pretty much ignored in the ratings system, is the problem of taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is extremely common in movies and often doesn’t rate a parental warning, even though we as Catholics find it more offensive than a crude swear word. There are some movies that I think are worth watching in spite of some of this sort of language.
We have always reserved some movies, and edited others, depending on the kids’ maturity level. Moving up to the next level is something they get excited about and treat with respect. I trust them not to imitate bad language and they are rewarded by getting to watch more exciting movies. There are also some movies we don’t let them watch until they have taken a Theology of the Body for Teens course. I am in the process of writing up brief notes for each movie and book recommended, but overall between my forgetfulness and different family’s sensitivities, it is never a bad idea to preview.
Because we tend to listen to the same songs numerous times and it’s more difficult to isolate them from younger children (certainly in comparison with movies), I have tried to keep my music recommendations pretty family friendly and tried to pay careful attention to the lyrics.