Screen Smart Families: Tips on Balancing TV and Movies
Welcome to the Screen-Smart Families series on JellyTelly Parents. Gen X and Millennial parents are the first to manage a whole new world of media and technology with our kids and many of us feel overwhelmed or completely at a loss on how to approach this large task that we face every moment of every day. We're pulling from the collective wisdom of many of our well-respected JellyTelly bloggers, offering over 100 years of combined parenting experience, largely within our current media-driven culture.
I have very fond memories of family TV time when I was growing up. We gathered around the giant tube box and took turns getting up to change the channel or mess with the antennae. We chomped on popcorn while watching the Keatons and the Cosbys learn all of life's big lessons in 30 minutes or less. Back then, our biggest media problem was trying to remember what time our favorite shows started or how to set the VCR to tape them if we weren't home when they aired. We had no idea that 30 years later we'd have a plethora of on-demand media options to weed through for our own families.
I don't know if you've noticed, but it seems television shows are getting worse while movies are a bit easier to navigate for kids. Many of the PG-rated films I saw growing up have content I don't want my children exposed to just yet. Nowadays, I know if a film is PG, it's more likely appropriate (but not a given) for our family (with kids age 9 and 6) to watch. TV shows, on the other hand, tend to be more inconsistent. Often times, shows marketed to families and elementary age children include themes and language completely inappropriate for their age and stage.
We asked our JellyTelly bloggers to share their experience with television and movies and found a few common responses. Because of the on-demand nature of our media, parents now have the responsibility and opportunity to screen shows and movies before kids watch them. Resources such as PluggedIn (Focus on the Family) and Common Sense Media are a go-to for today's Christian parents. Parents also rely heavily on password protected media platforms such as Netflix or Hulu. And of course, a resource like JellyTelly is a no-brainer, providing completely safe, engaging and uplifting content moms and dads don't have to worry about.
- "We used to always view things prior to our children watching them, but that became too time-consuming. We rely heavily on sites like PluggedIn (by Focus on the Family) to help us decide if the content is suitable for our children." (Carlie Kercheval, Today's Frugal Family™)
- "We make the call movie by movie. (No rated R) Sometimes, we check reviews and find out WHY something is rated PG 13, for example. Sexual content we keep away from. For the most part, instead of keeping our kids AWAY from bad things we direct them TO good things. Historical movies, Christian films, good, wholesome stories, sports, and documentaries." (Monica Swanson, The Grom Mom)
- "We don't really call a particular period of the day "screen time." But we have talked to our kids about how screen time is like junk food for the brain and that's why we are moderate with it. They know that it's okay to enjoy those things occasionally but it can't push out "good for you" things." (Tauna Meyer, The Proverbial Homemaker)
Making Your Own Screen-Smart Family Plan:
While those are just a few different perspectives from different families, we love those responses because of the guiding principles they can provide for you and your family as you think about how to navigate TV shows and movies. Here are some key questions to ask as you make your own Screen-Smart Family Plan:
- How much time do we want our kids to spend watching television and movies daily?
- When and where can they watch?
- What media platforms will we allow them to use?
- Do we need to screen shows/movies beforehand or come up with an approved list?
- Will we use passwords to protect what they have access to?