Something to think about during your next family movie night!

Andrea TomkinsMy last post here was about balancing screen time over the summer months. This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought, and I can summarize my feelings on the matter this way: my personal aim is to decrease the amount of time that my kids consume utter dreck**, and balance other free time with good quality viewing that we can enjoy as a family.

Less junk, more good stuff!

** This is not to say that there’s no room for mind-numbing dreck. There is, just like there’s room in our lives for paperbacks on the beach. And I do recognize that the definition of "dreck" is highly subjective. For example, some people may consider Here Comes Honey Boo Boo to be a study of American culture and socio-economics. Others will disagree.  

We're big movie buffs, and now that our girls are older we’ve been bumped into a whole new world. It’s a huge deal. We are no longer limited to G-rated films! The ability to watch PG and PG-13 movies has been a total game-changer, one that has opened up many great films. That being said, I think it’s fair to mention that we are still enjoying those G-rated ones together. (There will always be a special place in my heart for Pixar!)

Movies are awesome. But I see movie-going as more than just entertainment.  There are countless benefits to being an avid movie-goer. I like to think that it expands our minds and enhances our experiences. I endeavour to be the kind of person who watches films across different genres.... not just funny movies, but sad ones. Not just ones with big name stars, but with people we've never heard of before. Not just giant productions but independent ones. You catch my drift, right?

Well, what can possibly be the benefits to watching a movie? Let's think about that for a sec.

  • Movies can give us a really interesting window on different cultures. Think Spirited Away and Amélie, for example.
  • Movies can be educational, and this holds true for both fiction and non-fiction films. Let's not forget that documentaries are THE original reality TV and shouldn't automatically be dismissed as being boring. We watched the Queen of Versailles recently and - wow - what an eye opener. The kids really enjoyed it too.
  • Movies can be amazing conversation starters about many topics. And sometimes films can tell a story more vividly than something you’d hear about in social studies class. (Although we often do our own fact-checking afterwards) Consider To Kill a Mockingbird, War Horse, Driving Miss Daisy, The Sound of Music, Wall-E.
  • And let's not forget those conversations about the artistry of cinema and storytelling: My Neighbor Totoro, Avatar, Rear Window, the Princess Bride, Wallace and Gromit, Neverending Story, Coraline.

I have a few tools in my arsenal that make choosing movies a little easier.

I use the IMDB website and app to quickly check ratings and reviews.

Common Sense Media has a large database of movie reviews on their site. Parents rate movies for language, violence, sex etc., which makes it very easy to ensure the movie we’re about to download is suitable for our family.  here is an app as well,  and it has come in handy lots of times.

If you are looking for great movies to share with your kids this summer, there are many lists online to get you started. (Here’s one!) I’d love to hear what your faves are too!