Raising Healthy Families—Standards for Movies and Games
4/9/2013 8:03 AM
Growing up, one of my best friends was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon). I remember as a teen being surprised when she said she wouldn't come with me to see the movie, “Stripes”, which was rated R. She told me that her church did not allow their members to see R-rated movies. “Even your Mom and Dad???” I asked incredulously. “Yup.”
Well, it's been almost 30 years since that conversation, and now as I look at the media my husband and I consume, as well as think about what we want for our kids, I think her church was on to something. As a Muslim, I believe that I should guard my mind and my eyes. Allah(swt) tells both believing men and women that they should lower their eyes to protect their modesty:
"Tell the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…" (Quran 24:30-31).
We are also reminded about “adultery of the eyes” in hadith:
“Prescribed for the son of Adam is his portion of adultery which he must inevitably acquire. The adultery of the eyes is the glance. The adultery of the ears is listening. The adultery of the tongue is speech. The adultery of the hand is the grasp. The adultery of the foot is the step. The heart yearns and desires. The genitals then either confirm this or deny it.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
Not that we need research to back this up, but studies have shown that teens who consume the most sexual media are also more likely to have had sex.
It's not just sexual images that can be harmful, violence can be as well. In 2005, researchers at Indiana University found that exposure to violent media can change children's brains. Quite a few studies on violent video games have found a relationship between playing them and aggression. According to Brad Bushman of Ohio State University:
"On average, the research shows that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, it increases angry feelings, it increases physiological arousal such as heart rate and blood pressure, which may explain why it also increases aggressive behavior...It decreases helping behavior and it decreases feelings of empathy for others and the effects occur for males and females regardless of their age and regardless of where they live in the world."
So, if we have all of these warnings, why don't we do something about it? We know that looking at sexual images is wrong—yet so many of us will, without question, go see a movie that is rated R or watch TV shows with questionable content. We also know the danger that constantly viewing violence can have, yet we rarely put limits on our or our kids' viewing of violence.
What can we do?
Choose Media Standards for Your Family. Fist off, you need to know what the ratings are based on. For movies see this. For video games, see this. In our family, for kids the limit is PG, and for adults PG-13. As the kids get older, we may consider allowing some PG-13 movies. For video games, we tend to go for “E” everyone games, although as the kids get older, we may allow selective E10+ games.
Check Out Movies Before Your Kids View Them. We love the website Common Sense Media. On it, you'll find reviews of apps, video games, and movies based on age-appropriateness and content. The reviews are usually very detailed and will rate the movies based on: age appropriateness; education; positive messages' positive role models; violence & scariness; sexy stuff; language; consumerism; and drinking, drugs, & smoking.
Parental Controls: My iPad, along with all smartphones and tablets, allows me to set parental controls(restrictions) regarding what content and apps can be viewed (including movies by rating). Many computers as well either have built-in parental controls or you can download software that can do the job for free. There are more robust choices for a fee. If you're an adult who has trouble with viewing inappropriate material and would like to stop, have your spouse or a trusted friend who knows of your struggles keep the password to the parental controls for your device. You need to do this—internet porn is pervasive and addictive. It can have long-ranging effects on your children's future marriage.
V-Chip: All TVs made since 2000 have had V-chips installed—although many parents either do not know about them, or do not set them. Get out your TV's manual and figure out how to set it. However, be sure to check it from time to time, because a tech savvy kid can easily reset the passcode. To learn more what the TV ratings mean, check out this.
TV Guardian: The TV Guardian is a foul language filter device which keeps offensive words from being heard on your TV. Guard against “adultery of the ears”.
Education: I haven't found a lot of programs out there to talk to your kids about porn, but did find one put out by Brite Music (which is a Mormon company, although there is nothing religious in the information.) Their Safety Kids program, although created years ago, still address porn/inappropriate images. It targets younger children; however, as a child's first exposure to porn tends to be around 10 these days, you need to talk to your children before they are teenagers.
What about inappropriate media at a friend's house?
Have a code phrase. You might assume that your kids are just waiting to go to a friend's house and have an R-rated movie fest. Well, some kids may do that, but others may feel uncomfortable with their friend's different standards. One thing you can do to make it easy for them to ask for help is to have a code word they can use with you to tell you to come pick them up, without letting their friends know what's going on. “Mom, do I really have to come home to help you bake the brownies?” might sound innocent to her friends, but to you, it may signal that there are some things going on that she's uncomfortable with and she wants you to pick her up.
Be your children's advocate. Ask the hard questions for them. And check with them when they return. You might find out via how your child is acting that there are things going on at Yunus's house that make you uncomfortable.
Even with these limits, your kids will be exposed to inappropriate media. By approaching it with an open, nonjudgemental attitude you can mitigate its long-term effects. Rushing to the “haram”/guilt-inducing language will only drive them further into secrecy.