…for Spongebob, Harry Potter, the Twilight series…
I have told my kids that they will never be allowed to watch Spongebob because there is no “right age” for rude and disgusting, but what about Harry Potter and other works of children’s literature that have become a right of passage for kids? Just because a child is able to read books like this, it doesn’t mean that they should. I was shocked when my barely seven year old daughter came to me last week to find out if she was allowed to read the first book in the Harry Potter series. Murdered parents? A room under the stairs? Dark magic? Hmmmm, as a mom I don’t think that I’m ready for that conversation. Instead we steered her to the Ramona series, which she is devouring happily. My larger problem is that my four year old son reads on the same level as my daughter, and he has now begun requesting chapter books. How on earth do I find chapter books both interesting and appropriate for a four year old boy?
So as parents, how do we make these big decisions about appropriateness?
1. Would you want to discuss the content?
When deciding if your child is old enough to read a book or watch a movie, look closely at the subject matter. Is this something you would feel comfortable discussing with your child? When we watched the movie version of Beezus and Ramona, we were prepared to discuss that sometimes parents lose their jobs, families move, and cats die. These were all tough topics, but ones that we felt our six year old could handle…and so could we! I’m not sure that I’m ready to talk about evil men whose name cannot be spoken killing someone’s parents.
2. Would you want your child to make the jokes?
A couple years ago, a well-intentioned family member sent a copy of Happy Feet, but the “rude humor” warning on various sites made us decide to put it aside for a couple years. By the time I was eight, I’m sure I had seen Police Academy a dozen times, but that doesn’t mean that I want my kids to become fans of gross or sexual humor at a young age. Yes, my daughter rides the bus and attends public school, so I’m sure that she isn’t quite as sheltered as I might think, but right now her reaction to that sort of behavior is to ignore it or roll her eyes. By putting the DVD in the player and inviting her to watch that level of humor, I’m sending her the message that it is appropriate.
3. How has your child reacted in the past?
When our daughter was four, we decided that she was ready for a full length film for the first time. We headed to Blockbuster (may it rest in peace) and chose the least scary Disney film we could find: Cinderella. It turned out that our two year old was interested in the movie as well, and for nearly two hours I watched as my daughter danced to the music and my son giggled himself silly every time the mouse spoke. This has been a great barometer for how our children will react to other films. I know that the shadow man and the wolves in The Princess and the Frog and Beauty and the Beast bother my daughter, but my son doesn’t mind them. I also know that he loves the silly humor in classic Disney movies, such as the antics of Captain Hook and the crocodile in Peter Pan.
How do you decide what is right for your children?