Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Cinema Children

by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

Going to the theater or even viewing a home DVD these days can be somewhat disconcerting. You go to see the latest Disney or Pixar film with your young child.  You settle into the seats, and the previews begin. Then BAM!  Is all that violence and sexualized behavior necessary? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) through the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) issues ratings for movies, but the previews can be any rating.  The first problem: to see a movie, you and your child may have to sit through fifteen minutes of unsuitable, violent, or sexually-laden previews. The second problem: what do you do when the movie you came to see has inappropriate material in it?

What you can do as a parent is offer your child information related to the things he may see and hear, such as:  “The characters may act mean” or “The characters may get very sad.” You can explain BEFORE you arrive at the theater that this film is all pretend and discuss how your child pretends with his play at home. When you observe problematic film scenes along with him, be patient; process and explain them to him later. One mother actually rehearsed with her child to close his eyes upon command when too vivid a scene occurred in a film. You can hold up a magazine in front of his face, but that can be distracting to everyone else. Remember, too, that your child may make less out of what he is viewing on the screen than you might think. You see it from your perspective, he from his. Not being able to screen everything from our child simply means that we must be patient with the process, talk on a regular basis with our children about what they have seen and heard, and explain what we can. Public sexuality is becoming an ever-present commonality, and we may need to be more proactive about what our children need to know.

The violence is, of course,contagious with children but canbe tempered by our own effective modeling of functional problem-solving while at home and encouraging our children to verbally process what was viewed during a film. Ask your child:

(1) How ineffective was the physical assault upon others?

(2) What might be a better way to deal with a particular problem?

Working with children before and after a viewing can be very helpful. Other questions might be:

• What can you do if you see something bad happening?

• What did you think about the character that took the money?

• What did you think about those two people who were doing all that hugging?

Any form of verbal processing will allow you to insert what you believe and your child to problem-solve what he viewed.  Information is power, and talking with your child will allow him the opportunity to understand more about what is occurring.  That knowledge can prevent misconceptions and misunderstandings.  Last, these conversations can go on for days, as your child develops a more comprehensive view through repeated discussions.  In the end, we must be careful to which films we expose our children. Maybe a book would be better.

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Tags: Featured Story, Tweens & Teens

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