Lessons From Movie Night

The latest "Daddy Derek" column
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Many of my favorite childhood movies don’t resonate quite the same with my kids as they did with me. What’s more, many of the movies I watched as a kid make me wonder if parents in the 1980s and 1990s paid much attention to what their kids were watching at all. Things have definitely changed since 1991 when my friend Justin and I rode our bikes to a theater and were allowed to go in and watch the R-rated “Terminator II: Judgment Day” at the ripe age of 12 … without an adult.

My boys are now 10 and almost 8. We as a family are beginning to wade outside of the “little kid” movie pool. While my boys won’t be seeing a Terminator movie any time soon, we are checking out a lot of classic movies that my wife and I watched and loved when we were children.

A few months back, we thought our boys would love to see “E.T.” I mean, what kid doesn’t love space, aliens and Reese’s Pieces? Lost in my nostalgia, I completely forgot about the scary scene with E.T. nearly dying, along with the rough language at certain points. Our youngest actually needed a bit of assurance during the dying scene. Most of the language thankfully went over their heads, but it prompted a conversation about the inappropriateness of bad language. Come to think of it, if salty language is something you want to avoid, skip “E.T.” and another childhood classic, “The Sandlot” until the kids are older. 

The “E.T.” experience led my wife and I to check out movie reviews on Common Sense Media before screening a classic we loved. Common Sense Media is a nonprofit that provides reviews and advice on movies, TV, music, games and websites. The site also offers additional reviews from parents and kids. My wife and I don’t have time to screen everything our kids see and hear, so Common Sense Media provides a lot of good information to help us decide if something is worth watching or something we are OK with our kids seeing.

Everyone has a different feel for what is or is not appropriate material for his or her kids. We’ve had conversations about cartoons versus reality, and what is or isn’t acceptable. As a kid watching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” it didn’t make me violent, or want to drink or smoke, but it’s not a movie I’d let the kids watch alone. It’s important to watch movies with your kids to see how they react to various situations and content so you immediately can address any questions they have.

Another precaution to consider is setting parental controls on your television. We have parental blocks on in the boys’ playroom so they can’t watch shows above a certain rating. You can even specify that your kid(s) can watch something rated PG as long as it doesn’t contain foul language or violence. Whatever you do, don’t let your 12-year-old watch “Terminator II” unless they are wise beyond their years like I was. You can see me winking, can’t you?


Derek James is a host on WCCB News Rising. He and his wife live in Charlotte with their sons who are ages 7 and 10.