Family films part two – Finding films and illegal downloads

Andrea TomkinsYesterday’s post was about our resolution to watch more films this year. This post is a bit about the sources of those films and the issue of illegal downloads. For a bit of backstory, I recommend reading Matthew Johnson’s recent post about what kids are watching online and where they get their media.

In the study he refers to, Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III, it was discovered that some of the participants in their focus groups were confused about legal sources media and weren’t sure which ones were legit. As a content creator I take the issue of illegal downloads and shares very seriously and I believe that as parents we have to lead by example.

Young people have a very keen sense of injustice and it’s a good idea to frame the issue in terms they can understand. If your kids ask you why downloading or sharing an illegal copy of a movie is wrong, tell them that copyright laws are there to protect our creative community. There’s a great tip sheet developed for parents called Getting the Goods Ethically, which spells out this issue in a clear way.

But let’s return to sourcing family films. Surprisingly, one of the best places to find great films has turned out to be our public library. A browse through the shelves often reveals a surprise, whether it’s an old Oscar winner or a new film we just missed at the theatre. I’m getting to know my library’s online catalogue too. It’s free and there’s no drain on our bandwidth!

We’ve also been making heavy use of Netflix and Apple TV for our family films. To avoid any surprises we run every film choice though our Common Sense Media app and the parents’ guides at We do this for films we’ve seen sans children too. (Memory is a funny thing.) The app is great because it breaks each title down and rates potentially objectionable parts of any film. So for example, whether your main issue is language or violence or sex, you’ll find a rating here.

Here’s something new and interesting. If you are looking to compare different Canadian services and see what’s out there in terms of TV and movie viewing, the Motion Picture Association -- Canada has launched a helpful bilingual site called Where to Watch -- Canada. It offers links to both paid services and free ones for TV and movies for comparison shopping.

So what about when the kids are watching on their own? Our kids are 13 and 15 and spend most of their screen time watching YouTube and Netflix. Netflix is an endless buffet of film and TV that kids can watch on their own time. (My kids were smitten with Buffy. Who wouldn’t be?) They both have their favourite “YouTubers” they follow, and I can understand why. The connection there is stronger than when I used to watch Little House on the Prairie or the Brady Bunch (gee, I’m really dating myself, aren’t I?). Part of the attraction for them is that the YouTubers are real kids, doing real things, which makes them infinitely more relatable.

Whether it’s music, TV or film, in the end I am glad my children understand why it’s important to support legal media channels. Are they watching too much at this time in their lives? Probably. But that’s another issue altogether. Sigh.