Hunger Games: Be a Good Dad When it Comes to Media Choices

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Have your kids seen The Hunger Games yet? If your children are 10 or older, you surely know about this movie already.

The film raises some important concerns for fathers and families. It’s rated PG-13 due to “intense violent thematic material and disturbing material—all involving teens.”

Is this the kind of movie you’d allow your child to see? Parents approach this question in different ways, and many of them have thoughtful reasons for doing so.

I often think of a child’s mind as a battleground. Media industries are spending billions to get my child’s time and attention and loyalty. Not all media is bad, but it often isn’t the best that I want for my child.

I don’t generally do media reviews. So instead, here are 3 guiding principles and then some practical tips for how to be a good dad when it comes to kids and media choices—for The Hunger Games and the next “questionable” movie, music download, TV show or video game your child begs to check out.

1. Be involved. See the movie. Play the video game. Often you can learn a lot from online resources that provide detailed reviews for parents—such as Common Sense Media and Plugged In. Take what you find out and measure it against the values and principles that are most important to you and your family.

Using that information, your involvement should include a dialogue—not a monologue!—with your child. Extend your child respect by listening first, and give him some benefit of the doubt.

Ask questions about what appeals to him about the movie. Talk about some of the themes that are prevalent, and the real-life consequences that go with them. For example, with The Hunger Games, you could discuss oppression and injustice, courage and bravery, responses to authority, and overcoming obstacles. Is the movie making a point about violence, or love, or the roles of men and women? What comment is it making about today’s world? If faith is important in your family, ask, “Where was God?” Or, “How could faith have made a difference for that character?”

Remember, dad, these media challenges with our kids are bonding and coaching opportunities. Issues that might seem difficult or negative can often become teachable moments for the future. And these can happen just about every day, so make sure you don’t get tired or bored of the process of shaping your child. Finding teachable moments in daily life should be a base play in your fathering game plan; it’s something you should be doing all the time.

2. Know your child. No matter what rating is stamped next to a movie, every child is unique. Not every 13-year-old is the same. Is your child deeply moved by on-screen drama? Is she ever mindful of the difference between fact and fiction? Would she understand the difference between necessary violence and gratuitous violence? Would she be haunted by violent scenes or would she be able to leave them in the theater?

The better you know your child, the better you’re be able to make wise decisions on specific media challenges that come along.

3. Don’t apologize for protecting your child. Not all movies, video games and websites are good for your child, and as a father, you have the right and the responsibility to set and enforce boundaries about what goes into your child’s mind, and protect him from danger.

Kids are growing up faster these days, but that isn’t always a good thing. They aren’t ready to handle adult issues and information; they don’t need to see violence and sex and forms of abuse. The heavy issues of the world can wait.

Don’t back down in the face of your child’s resistance because she can’t attend a sleepover where they’re showing a movie you object to. Don’t feel bad about restricting your son to video games that are rated for his age. Courageously change the channel or block the website when something inappropriate comes on.

Your kids will give you grief. They’ll call you unfair and out of touch. They’ll talk about what their friends’ parents allow them to do. But that’s okay—really! It’s your job to protect them.

Action Points for Dads on Handling Media Issues:

  • When you have to deny your children something, consider using these words (with a smile): “I love you too much to let you do things that aren’t good for you.”
  • Examine your own media use. As a role model, your kids watch what you watch.
  • Watch something funny with your kids on YouTube.
  • Help your family reevaluate the role of media in their lives by arranging for everyone to go “media free” for a day, weekend or longer. Brainstorm for other fun things to do together during that time.
  • Watch or listen to your children’s favorite programs or tapes. Empower your children by allowing them to make some viewing or listening decisions, subject to your approval. Listen to their impressions of their favorite shows or music.
  • Have a voice in programming and marketing. Call or write to local stations, networks and advertisers explaining why you approve or disapprove of programs. You can do the same at your local video or computer store. Get involved—and get your kids involved, too.

What works for you? Please share your comments and ideas below.

 

Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

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  1. I consider this a good blog post. However, I find that point #3 about protecting one’s child naive. The reason I believe this is because it is protection by omission, instead of protection by inclusion.

    I relate to my kids by video games. I make the analogy constantly that life is like a video game and I and my wife are two of the best cheat books around. They understand this.

    Unfortunately, kids today are bombarded by the negativity. And I can safely say that 60 to 80% of the time they are getting hit with it when you are not around. Temptation and peer pressure also play a huge role. So there they are, in school, on the playground, hanging out with their friends in the neighborhood, away from you. They see and hear things you would not even thought would be possible today.

    Those children who are protected by Omission, where parents don’t allow them to see things, where parents don’t explain what is going on, where parents shelter them…..these kids are vulnerable and, in my opinion, more gullible to take the dark path. The path that will do them most harm.

    The children who are protected by Inclusion, where the parents give them hints to what is going on and where the parents give them a glimpse into the future and where dialog between parent and child take place and difficult “adult” type concepts are brought down to their level….I feel, are better protected.

    It wasn’t the first time that my son came to me to tell me I was right. That Johnny down the street was engaging in something that he should not have been doing and that Johnny was trying to pressure him to go along with it. My son nicknames me Nostradamus. I just smile and tell him that I am just a cheat book, because I have played the game of life farther than he has. He understands this……

    Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to throw it out there with your kids. Ask them questions. Find out what they understand. Try your best then to explain why some things are the way they are……You are never going to be with them all the time to try and hide all of the things that will hurt them, so give them the benefit of the doubt and teach them to protect themselves…..

    • I think your’s and Casey’s points are exclusive. It sounds like you are saying it is good to stretch you kids some and see how they handle it, which can be a good way to help them grow. But as a dad, with the cheat code, there are times where you will have to say no. That is part of being a dad, sometimes your make a call that is unpopular for the long term benefit of your children.
      I remember as a kid that my did limited my movie watching and it frustrated me. But now I am thankful he did and will follow similar guidelines with my kids.

    • Casey isn’t saying put your kids in a plastic bubble and don’t let them out, he’s just saying have good timing. Your kids are obviously responding to your methods because they are mature enough to pick up on the concepts you’re laying down. I’m sure when they were 2 weeks you weren’t busting out the playstation. That’s why this is point 3 after the crucial point of 2 know your child. If your child isn’t old/mature enough, then don’t apologize for protecting even by “omission” until such time as you believe they can grasp the concept without having any negatives influence them.

  2. Great wisdom, I will gratefully remind the dads of our church about fathers.com and link them to this is blog!

  3. There is a fine art of balance between allowing exposure to things of this world vs. locking kids up in an ivory tower. (inclusion vs. omission.) Parents dance this dilemma every day. DVerdecia is has a good point in saying that if we keep kids oblivious of “adult” type concepts, they will probably learn it from someone else (who is much less interested in their well-being than we are). Casey is correct that sometimes we need to be resolute about saying “NO”.

    I stumbled upon my teenagers were watching a YouTube video laced with questionable language. I struggled with what to do…My first reaction was to pull the plug. I took a deep breath and prayed and the thought came to my mind to empower my kids to use the all powerful WWJD guidelines.
    So instead of power struggling, lecturing, or acquiescing, I calmly went over and said: ” Hey guys, sounds like there is some strong language coming out of that video. I don’t want to be the judge — and I certainly cannot patrol what you guys are watching or listening to every day. You are now getting to an age where you can think for yourself and I am so proud of how you guys have turned out! I know that when someone tempts me to watch or do something that is questionably inappropriate, it can create a conflict. You know what I do? I think to myself, what if Jesus was hanging out with me, and this “questionable opportunity” came up? Would I feel comfy with JC looking over my shoulder? Thats all… ” and then I walked away.

    We need to realize that the goal of parenting is NOT to CONTROL our kids… but to TEACH them to CONTROL THEMSELVES.

    John

  4. Watchdogs are great; I love participating with my kids at their school. I also liked your post about the Hunger Games. I took my two older ones to see the movie after we all read the book. I think it was a great opportunity to speak to my kids about UN agenda 21 and the plans for reducing dependency on the family and oneself. I know of the full assault on our liberties and freedoms. Children on the other hand don’t fully understand the magnitude of what is occurring in the world. This movie and book gives a great vision of what we don’t want for our future and let’s not forget it is a science fiction book written children. Because of the graphic nature and the real life threat the Hunger Games portrays most people have bought into the idea because they see how real it may become. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids the truth of totalitarian rule the elate are pushing our world too. The sooner they know how to fight oppression the longer we all live. God bless our future, this is why we are all watchdogs.

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