7 Things to Know Before Your Kids See the Latest Movie

Summer is a great time to go see a movie. It can be a fun family outing in air conditioning. It can also have unintended consequences for your kids. Are you allowing your kids to see movies they aren’t ready to handle psychologically or spiritually? Here are some things to consider before you buy those tickets.

  • What is the rating? Ratings only help you weed out the most inappropriate movies. There are still movies with “acceptable” ratings that still aren’t good for your kids – including “G” rated movies. Ratings are a starting point for deciding what your kids should see, not the only criteria.
  • Are you willing to let their brains think they have actually experienced what they see in the movie? The dirty little brain science secret Hollywood doesn’t want you to know is that when the brain watches sexual or violent content, it can’t differentiate between reality and fiction. With younger kids, it’s even more pronounced because they are concrete thinkers and may not totally understand the story isn’t true. Experiences change your children’s brains – for better or worse. Violence changes the brain in negative ways and so does early exposure to sex.
  • What are the themes of the movie? Beyond the plot, what are the main messages the movie is pushing? Are they godly? Are they even moral? A current hit children’s movie is pushing the idea that evil should be celebrated and that some people are just born evil and there’s nothing they can do to change. Not a message I want my child to believe is true.
  • Have you read the review at www.pluggedin.com? If you are in a rush, skip to the conclusion for a summary. If you have more time, they break down any content a Christian might find objectionable. Then you can make a more informed decision about what you want your child to see.
  • Have you explained the concerns you have about a movie they want to see? Just forbidding a movie is not helpful for your relationship with your kids and can create faith stumbling blocks. Explaining your concerns in age appropriate ways and agreeing to revisit the idea of watching the movie when they are older or admitting they can make a different decision as adults breaks down walls, even if you disagree.
  • Have you discussed the movie and their thoughts about it afterwards? It’s natural to talk about what you liked or didn’t like, but take it a step farther. Ask your kids if they thought the movie was trying to make a point and what it was. Then discuss the pros and cons of it. Make it fun and you can have a great conversation.
  • Remind your kids (and yourself) they don’t have to do everything everyone else is doing to have friends or be successful in life. (In fact, they probably shouldn’t.) The pressure your kids feel to see a particular movie is often more about everyone in their peer group seeing it and wanting to fit in than the movie itself. This is an easy example of how peer pressure can impact your kids. Give them tools to handle being different or making different choices with confidence. If you can, they will be much more likely to avoid more negative and potentially destructive peer pressure later.

Seems like a lot of trouble, doesn’t it? Philippians 4:8 talks about the things we need surrounding us to be healthy Christians. If the latest movie doesn’t fit the bill, then it is hurting your kids. Why not take a few minutes and make sure it’s what they need to see.

Can Managing This Improve Your Child’s Emotional State?

Concern has been rising over the last several years about the increase in anxiety and depression in kids and teens. According to the CDC, suicides in the 10-24 year old age group increased 60% between 2007 and 2018. COVID has done little to improve things with 75% of teens self reporting at least one adverse mental health symptom and 25% seriously considering suicide in the 30 days preceding the survey.

There are a lot of factors impacting these numbers, but one can be easily managed by your children – with a lot of encouragement from you. A recent study found that the amount of negative media consumed has a direct correlation to negative psychological states. This is particularly true when people were exposed to content that was negative and encouraged fear or anxious responses.

The researchers also found that media tended to have an amplifying effect on a problem. For example, reporting in grand detail the death of one young person and ignoring the millions of other similar young people who were not similarly impacted. That type of reporting can make your kids feel as if many or most young people are having similar experiences.

The final problem researchers noticed is that on social media in particular it was almost impossible for young people to differentiate between rumors, quasi- factual stories and factual stories. They were more likely to believe a story based on the person who posted it, rather than the validity of the story itself. They even found that people who viewed negative content on the internet were more likely to report PTSD symptoms that those who watched similar content on tv or read about it in a newspaper. (Although those who viewed content on tv had more symptoms than those who merely read about it. Research has shown the brain has a hard time differentiating between what it sees being actually experienced or viewed merely as entertainment. The brain defaults to everything viewed as an actual experience.)

On the other hand, researchers found that Philippians 4:8 is the answer. Okay, they didn’t actually quote the verse, but they found that watching heroic acts, heart warming stories and speeches from experts – especially with concrete advice, were helpful. Those viewing that type of content felt more positive and experienced less anxiety and depression.

Encourage your kids to limit their exposure to negative content of any type. If they want to stay informed, limit the amount of time they spend seeking content on the topic as much as possible. Encourage them to get their information by reading the most reputable source they can find. If they feel they must watch live or taped footage, tv is preferable to the internet. Exposure to filmed or live footage should be kept to the bare minimum. If they want to learn more about a topic, they should look for articles by actual experts on the topic and preferably well done research.

If troubling events continue for a long block of time – like COVID – encourage your kids to Philippians 4:8 their lives daily. Any content they view should be positive and uplifting. Watching scary or violent entertainment will only add to their stress and anxiety. If they want to get involved – always a great idea – help them find content that explains concrete ways to help.

You don’t have to ban your kids from using the internet to help them manage their emotions – especially in tough or traumatic times. Just teach them how to use it in ways that will help and not hurt them.

Are Your Kids’ Assumptions Hurting Them?

Have you noticed that whenever anything happens lately, there is an almost instantaneous rush to judgment? The culture around us encourages us to assume motives without the person whose motives are being judged having said a word at times. This hasn’t just impacted major news stories either. We are encouraged to assign blame, assume motives and give consequences without waiting for evidence, often other than what someone thinks they saw or heard….from some random source that may or may not have an agenda.

The problem with rapid judgments is that they are often wrong. That person we thought was mean because he hated women, actually just got a terminal diagnoses and was distracted and grumpy. The person who cut us off in traffic was actually distracted by a crying child and felt horribly as soon as she realized what she had done.

Your kids will be encouraged by the world around them to jump to quick judgments about the motives, hearts and thoughts of people who have not had a chance to even attempt to share those things. Yet, God wants them to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. They will be encouraged to be angry with people who God wants them to love, serve and teach about Him. They will be encouraged to hold grudges and get revenge on people God wants them to forgive and teach a better, godly way of living.

The next time your child rushes to judgment or makes assumptions about things for which they have no real evidence, you might want to include these scriptures in the discussion.

  • “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2
  • ”Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
  • ”Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
  • ”With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3
  • ”Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,”Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  • ”Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
  • ”Bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Colossians 3:13

There are many other scriptures you can include in your discussions. Are there people who have evil motives? Of course. Not every one does for everything they do, though. Sometimes your kids may have misunderstood the situation. Sometimes the person is not angry or mean just to them, but to everyone – including themselves. Sometimes people make mistakes or sin in the moment…even when they generally are trying to be loving to everyone. Sometimes people don’t realize what they did or how what they said sounded. Sometimes people are just having a bad day and are taking it out on everyone in their path. Sometimes people are in so much pain, they don’t realize they are lashing out at others in their pain. And sometimes people have evil, ungodly motives, but need a chance to learn about God, obey Him and change their ways.

Your kids will need to understand, they are not God. They cannot read minds and hearts. Which means, sometimes they may be right about their assumptions and sometimes they will be very wrong. They need to understand that being quick to listen and slow to speak and get angry, will help them make better choices and not add to or create a problem situation. Hopefully, they will eventually learn to assume the best motives and be prepared for the worst without deciding which motives are involved until they have all of the evidence (realizing that since they are not God, even with all of the evidence, they may still be wrong in their conclusion).

If you can teach your kids to jump to grace and forgiveness before judgment and condemnation….because they need those same gifts from others and especially God, then our world may start becoming a place where people are allowed to learn and grow from their mistakes and their sins. If they can focus on teaching people who need help finding more godly ways of living rather than mocking and destroying them, the Kingdom will grow and thrive. They won’t learn those lessons from the world around them. They need to learn them from you.

Teaching Kids About Truth and Love

There is a misconception in today’s world that truth and love cannot exist in the same space. Your kids will probably be told that it is preferable to lie rather than to risk hurting someone’s feelings. Or that it is important to tell everyone they are going to Heaven, rather than risk upsetting someone by telling them they are disobeying God. Or that it isn’t loving to believe God will indeed send people to Hell for disobeying clearly stated truths in the Bible. And sadly they will watch as supposedly strong Christians take a clearly written declaritive sentence in the Bible and twist the words into a pretzel so that in the end, the sentence means the exact opposite of what it says.

The problem has been that many have done a very poor job of how they choose to share God’s truths. Or their “truth”. Love has come disconnected from truth and it seems to be getting worse every day. Fortunately, you can actively teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected – the way God intended it to be.

There are a few basic principles about truth and love that your kids need to know and practice.

  • Not every “truth” is actually “truth”. Just because your child believes something to be true, does not mean it is. Your child could be mistaken or wrong. Your child may only know part of the truth, but not all of it. Or it may just be your child’s opinion on a topic where everyone has a right to a different opinion (like a favorite color). Part of keeping truth and love connected is to constantly search for truth and make sure something is definitely truth before we present it as such.
  • Not every “truth” is equally important. God’s truths are absolute, unchanging and of eternal importance. Much of what people believe is “truth” is actually an opinion. There is no real evidence to prove whether or not it is absolute, unchanging and valid for everyone. An opinion positioned as “truth”is not nearly as important as God’s absolute truths.
  • Not every “truth” must be spoken immediately. Timing is crucial. Sharing a truth that could embarrass someone is perhaps best not done loudly in front of a large group of people. Your kids also need to understand that the “truths” of their opinion may not need to be shared at all. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, doesn’t mean five hundred other people won’t love it. It’s not necessary to hurt someone’s feelings with your personal opinion.
  • God’s truths are absolute and do not change. We do not get to vote to change God’s commands. Current popular culture may not approve of God’s commands, but that does not mean they should be changed. God knows what is best for us. We have to trust and obey Him.
  • There is a way to share God’s truths with love. Most people believe they are doing the best they can. They will usually become defensive and stop listening if someone uses harsh, ugly, angry language to communicate God’s truths to them. Yes, Jesus may have sounded a bit harsh at times, but those occasions were rare. Most of the time he was very loving, but firm in the ways he corrected others.
  • Keeping God’s truths from someone is not love. There is a thought process that people cannot “help” who they are. It is not their fault if they want to live their lives in ways that disobey God. The fear by many Christians is that sharing God’s truths with them will make them reject God. The reality is living a life enmeshed in sin is a rejection of God. Making someone believe they are “right” with God while they are living in enmeshed sin is not loving. You are giving them a false sense of security. Sharing God’s truths in such a way that they will hopefully want to make changes and obey God is ultimately the most loving thing anyone can do.

Take the time to teach your kids how to keep truth and love connected. It is a skill set our world desperately needs.

A Great Way to Help Your Kids Recognize Influences

Social media influencers can make a lot of money convincing their followers to purchase specific items. Those posts are pretty obvious to most young people today. Can your kids, however, recognize when the books they read, games they play or media they watch are changing their world view, ideas or beliefs?

The answer is probably not. Why? Because content creators are often purposefully subtle (yet effective) in their attempts to influence the minds of young people. Your kids probably have no idea of what content creators may want them to believe or the actions they hope to inspire.

There’s a relatively simple way to help your kids be more aware of when others are trying to influence them and what those ideas are. After they finish interacting with any sort of content, ask your kids what the ad for it would look like. What is the tag line? In other words, what are the authors of the content trying to sell your kids?

Your kids may struggle with this at first. Another way to ask the same type of question would be to ask them the moral of the story. If they are familiar with Aesop’s fables, they know about the last line that sums up the lesson readers were supposed to have learned. What would be that last line for the movie, book, game or other creative content with which they just interacted?

If you catch subtle content they miss, ask them a question to see if their brains registered something they weren’t consciously aware connected. For example, let’s say a character decided to lie to a friend to spare their feelings. The creators believe this is perfectly acceptable, even laudatory behavior. When summing up the episode, your child doesn’t mention the incident. So, did it impact your child?

You can try the direct approach and ask what they thought about the scene. A more indirect way would be to present a similar dilemma. What would they do in a situation that is similar, but not exactly the same as the creative content?

Making your kids more aware of when others are attempting to influence them is an important skill set. It will help them think more critically about ideas they have unknowingly had repeated to them multiple times in thousands of different ways. Otherwise, they risk being brainwashed into believing sin is great, good is bad, and the world God wants is archaic and suspect.