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Rhianwen Benner: Ever covered your kid's eyes during a particularly violent or steamy scene? Then you know how hard it is to find age-appropriate movies that match your kid's sensitivity level. Here are 8 things to consider.
1. Age. Movies are usually made with a target age in mind, but sometimes things get tricky. For example, The Little Mermaid has a very different level of age-appropriateness than a Transformers movie, even though both brands may have young fans.
2. Quality. Does the storyline make sense? Does it engage kids on a meaningful level? There's a big difference between a mindless giant doll commercial like Bratz Super Babyz and the beautifully animated Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings.
3. Educational value. This is especially important when you're looking for movies for younger kids. It's perfectly fine to choose movies solely for their entertainment value, but if kids can learn something too, then why not give it a shot?
4. Messages. Media messages really do impact kids, so it's a good idea to choose movies that reflect your values. Younger kids are more literal and do better with direct messages. For older kids, movies with more ambiguous takeaways can provide an opportunity for you to discuss your own views.
5. Role models. Your kids will meet both good and bad characters in most movies, but are any of the characters in the story really people you’d like your kids to emulate? Do they offer teachable moments?
6. Violence, sex, and language. While movies for little kids don’t have graphic violence, sex, or language, many push the limits with juvenile stand-ins. It may be cartoon violence, kissing and flirting and gateway words like "heck" and "jerk." If this kind of content is in a context that makes sense and has consequences, then it might be an okay pick.
7. Consumerism. Product placements, fast-food tie-ins, and merchandizing are all part of movie marketing. Consumerism in a movie doesn't disqualify it from being worthwhile, but it's important to talk to your kids about what marketers want.
8. Drinking, drugs, and smoking. For young kids, avoid any gratuitous drinking, drugs, and smoking that's portrayed as relatively consequence-free, and anytime substance use and abuse does come up, talk to your kids about it. Still not sure? Watch the trailer and find out what other parents and even kids are saying. And, of course, for the best age-appropriate information, check out our ratings and reviews at commonssense.org.