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4 Questions to Ask About What Your Child is Watching

4 Questions to Ask About What Your Child is Watching

I remember sitting in the movie theater with my husband James for a much needed date night. We sat down with our popcorn for the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel. But as I looked around the theater, I became concerned. The audience was filled with children. There were boys who looked like they were around 7 or 8. There were a few five-year-olds and even toddlers in strollers. Not only did the movie start late at 8:15 p.m., it was rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.” It was too late, too loud, and too intense for young children. PG and PG-13 movies come with a warning to parents for a reason. Super hero franchises may appeal to young children but make no mistake; most of their movies are not kid friendly.

When you are deciding what kind of content is appropriate for your child to watch, there are general guidelines that every family can use. Here are four questions you can ask to decide whether or not it is wise for your child to view a particular program or video game:

What factual data is my child learning from this program? If there is factual data, is it correct? You want your child’s mind to be filled with truth. If the program communicates a distorted vision of reality instead of how life works in the real world, you don’t want your child watching. You want your child to be exposed to things that are real and not a distortion of reality.

What kind of character traits is this program seeking to build in my child? Is the main character someone I want my child to copy? If the humor comes from cutting others down, being rude, or showing disrespect to authority, that’s a red light. Positive programs will teach your child to care for others, work hard, resolve conflict, or overcome obstacles.

How does this program treat family members? Television sitcoms often degrade men and fathers by making them lazy, fat, or stupid. What messages is your child hearing about men, women, marriage and parents? How is the family represented?

Is this program consistent with our family values? A child is running into all sorts of values during his or her early years. You can’t control what your child sees outside of the home at school or other places, but you can control what they are exposed to during screen time at home. What is viewed on screens should be in keeping with your family values, or it should be off limits.      

It is your job as a parent to teach your children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate content. Do not leave this task to a teacher, pastor, friend, or counselor. In the same way you would not allow your child to eat candy bars for dinner each night, you cannot allow your child to consume screen time junk food. You as a parent are the gatekeeper of your child’s mental diet. That may mean skipping out on the latest film marketed to children, but don’t worry. The emotional health of your child is more important than keeping up with what’s popular.

Based on the book Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Dr. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane.

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at

Publication date: August 1, 2014