498. Parental Guidance Advised

It’s scary that some people seem to think of children mostly in terms of what they’ll buy, or what they’ll convince their parents to buy. Commercials and children’s entertainment often seem to be designed based on what advertisers think they’ll be able to sell, not on what they think will have good effects on children’s minds. I guess from their point of view, they’re just doing their job. And if they sell a lot, they’re doing their job well.
Given that mindset, and given the enormous power of money, any improvement in children’s entertainment is going to have to come from the efforts of parents. And parents are generally busy people who don’t have a lot of time to check on what the media are doing to their children. I know there are conscientious parents who pay close attention to the content of the media, and make sure their children only see programs and movies they consider appropriate for their children. I know some. But such parents are rare. It’s more typical to trust the existing rating system – to think of “PG” as “G,” and to think of “G” as ideal.
If I were rating movies, I wouldn’t be so quick to hand out a “G” or “PG.” So far, those ratings seem to say more about what ISN’T in a movie than about what IS. If a movie doesn’t have a lot of sex and/or violence, it gets a rating that means it’s okay for children. I recently made myself see “Liar, Liar,” a PG movie that I knew lots of children were seeing. As I watched the movie, I thought about what it was telling children. It was telling them, for example, that a successful lawyer has to lie, and get clients to lie, too. I know dishonesty does happen in the legal profession, as it does in most professions, but I don’t think that movie is an appropriate way to introduce children to law. I listened to the reactions of the children in the audience. They enjoyed the slapstick comedy. They liked hearing an adult say whatever insulting things came to his mind. I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand it all, but they heard adults laughing, so they laughed, too. And a few days later, I heard some third graders talking about the movie. They thought it was great. But they thought “younger children” shouldn’t see it, because of the way some of the women in the movie were dressed, and because of the main character’s comments about that. Other than that, they thought it was great. I don’t.
As I think about how I would rate movies, I realize that not many movies would make it past my stringent standards and get a “G” rating. But my standards are only my standards. Parents who disagree with me are free to disagree. We can debate, we can agree to disagree, or we can just disagree. But either way, at least we’re thinking. The rating system is used by many parents
as a way to not have to think about the appropriateness of movies. Please do think about it.

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