We’ve always been super careful about what our kids watch during their screen time. Whether it’s tv, movies, video games, computer time or apps, we feel it’s important to guide and protect their eyes and minds especially in our own home. We know that we can’t always monitor what they hear at school or what they may glance on a billboard but in our house? You better believe we’re going to be proactive in choosing what they’ll see.
Even when they were little we were careful about the cartoons they watched. We wanted to be sure that what they were seeing on the screen was teaching values that we agreed with. This meant saying no to a lot of ‘age appropriate’ shows. Sure, it might be rated for small kids but that didn’t mean it lined up with what we wanted them to learn.
Pokemon, for example. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it as a cartoon for 8 or 9 year old boys. There isn’t any inappropriate language or sexual references. So why weren’t they allowed to watch it? Because the pokemon characters each had some type of power that their trainers could call upon. Pokemon – rain! and it would rain. Pokemon – thunder! and it would thunder. Seem harmless enough? Maybe, but not if we want our kids to actually know without a shadow of a doubt that there is only one who controls the rain and thunder. We just didn’t want to be sending them mixed messages before they were able to comprehend them. Before they were able to distinguish truth from cartoon.
It happened with movies as well. Kids movies that had a rating that was for sure within the age limits of our boys were just not okay with us. Both Shrek and Madagascar 2 inparticular are loaded with sexual innuendo as well as things that are just plain not right. Trying to run a granny over with a jeep? No thanks. Hippo’s having a little hot tub date scene together. Nuh uh. The two talk in low, sexy voices and exchange compliments about their respective “hugeness” while taking a moonlit swim, Pinnochio wears women’s thong underwear, and so many more things that were just unacceptable to us. Especially at an age where they like to watch the same movie over and over again.
So along the way we’ve tried to teach our boys much more than just going by a rating but actually how to discern whats okay and what’s just not. It takes a whole lot more effort on our part and on there’s because we can’t just say, “video games with a T rating are fine, honey” when they go to their friends houses. Because some video games rated T are fine and others most definitely are not.
Scripture tells us that we are to fix our minds on things that are pure, lovely and holy. It tells us that we are not to be rude and that we are to run from evil. It warns of the dangers of opening yourself up to sexuality before you should. Most importantly of all it tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and that we are to do all things to his glory. This means even the movies that we watch, the tv we see and the video games we spend our time on. If it’s not for his glory then it shouldn’t be for their (or our!) eyes!
While we were at the store the other day my oldest boy spent some time showing me some of the video games that “everyone at school plays.” I was appalled! Actually shocked and appalled! I know maybe I shouldn’t be. They’ve been in middle school for 3 years now and I thought I’d heard/seen it all. But these games that kids are playing were ones that I wouldn’t want my boys to play even if they were 20, let alone 13! Many had a teen rating but included things like nudity, sexual reference and gore. What was more surprising were the M (mature) games that kids in 8th grade are playing.
I find it hard to fathom what will come next. If 10 year olds are playing Teen games and teens are playing Mature games, what on earth will they be playing when they’re 16 and 17?
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
- Crude Humor – Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
- Suggestive Themes – Mild provocative references or materials
- Violence – Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
- Blood and Gore – Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
- Strong Language – Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
I’m so thankful for teaching moments like this. Where my boy can show me these games and we can look at them together and agree that the T or the M on the cover does not guide us. I could ask him if he would be really happy with his Dad if he was playing these games and he looked at me in horror. “No way, Mom! Dad shouldn’t even play them!” And it’s true. He shouldn’t.
We need to teach our kids so much more than looking at a rating on a box. We need to assure them that PG 13 doesn’t give a green light and T on a box doesn’t assure them it’s appropriate. Believe me, they can handle it. If we teach them what is good, what is right and what is honourable they will see these movies and games and know to turn away. If we teach them things that are pure, and holy and lovely then they will know when the things that they see aren’t that and make choices based on what they know.
I challenge you parents to teach them more than a rating. Teach them wisdom. Teach them to discern. Teach them that when they make mistakes your open to talk about it without doling out shame or guilt. Teach them that there is forgiveness and then start all over again by teaching them wisdom. It’s the cycle of parenting.