Many years ago I was a 25 year old mother who thought that my 6 year old daughter might find Mars Attacks entertaining.
She didn’t. And she still talks about how wildly inappropriate it was for her to watch at that age.
The more I learned about children’s cognitive, social and emotional development the more I learned she was right. By the time she was 9 I was curating her media consumption with a lot more rigidity. And it has paid off.
In grade 9 or 10 her teacher read a book to her class about the Holocaust. On many days for weeks she came home and talked out the moral implications of the story. I’ll never forget the day she came home and told me she cried in class as the teacher read one particularly dark chapter and she noticed her classmates were unmoved; not one showed any signs of the emotional turmoil she was experiencing. One student asked her if she was crying about the dog and agreed that was sad.
She wasn’t crying about the dog.
Her entire class of nearly 30 students was completely desensitized to the horrors of Auschwitz, imposed on human beings who had done nothing wrong. I remember her recalling the reflection she offered her teacher and how the two of them tried to explain why what was happening in the story was horrifying to her. I remember how baffled she was that not one of her peers picked up on the fact that people were being mass murdered.
And honestly I believe it is media.
I believe it is the constraints I put on her media intake that kept her empathy intact.
She didn’t play first person shooter games.
She didn’t watch action adventure movies full of violence and twisted humor.
She watched movies full of whimsy, magic and love.
She played Minecraft not Fortnite.
I have 3 children. My daughter I raised solo. She has never had a father. My oldest son I shared the job with his Dad who did not share my perspectives on video games, nor did he really offer his feedback if he thought something wasn’t age appropriate.
The difference in the two of them from an emotionally intelligent and empathetic perspective is significant.
And if we extrapolate this experience out into the world then is it any wonder we are where we are?
Our poor children.
We, as parents, have a responsibility to our children to support their growth and development. Personally I want my children to be the best versions of human beings I am capable of creating.
If part of doing that means I have to wait a few more years to watch Star Wars or Back to the Future or some other cult classic I am excited to share with my child then so be it.
When my youngest son turned 9 he was finally old enough to watch so many of my favorites. Re-experiencing cinematic treasures with a child who is cognitively and emotionally capable of understanding them at the level they were intended has brought me so much joy.
I can tell you from experience it is so very worth the wait.
I’ve made a lot of lists to help guide me through my years as a parent.
Some of them are linked below. I hope you find them helpful and welcome your feedback on movies I’ve missed. My own pop culture education was pretty limited so I guarantee I am missing some gems.