Does it really matter what movies your teenager goes to see? I mean, what does movie viewing have to do with your teen’s Christian faith and walk? And should you, as the parent, have the final say in what they see?
Not long ago, my 16 year old daughter called and asked me if she could go to a movie with some friends after school. I said, “yes” but, because I was engaged in a tedious activity at the time and was in the midst of a busy day, I neglected to ask one very important question: “What movie are you going to see?” Now, that was very unlike me. I’m usually more thorough and on top of things.
My daughter had gotten her license several months ago, as had many of her friends, therefore, she was more independent now and could engage in some fun activities without a parent along. She was loving it! And, I must admit, I was loving it quite a bit as well, having been her taxi driver for so many years.
Later on that night, I realized my mistake and asked my daughter what movie they had seen. She told me the name of the movie and I went to the computer to look it up. Judging by the look on her face, however, I knew I was not going to like what I found. Sure enough, the movie my daughter saw turned out to be a pretty crass comedy, rated PG 13, but with quite a bit of sexual innuendo and some bad language. I really messed that one up but, it turned into a good teaching moment.
Some years ago I discovered a fantastic movie review site sponsored by “Focus on the Family” called Plugged In , that tells parents everything about a given movie…things like: the specific language used, the sexual content, the degree of violence and any drug references. It’s an excellent resource for concerned parents who care about what their teens are watching.
When the teen years come along (usually more quickly than we’d like), Christian parents sometimes have to come up with new methods, rules and guidelines to help our teens navigate life with their newly acquired freedom and responsibility. After my parenting lapse/movie snafu, my daughter and I came up with a way to help her take ownership of her movie-watching decisions and to insure that those decisions were God-honoring. We decided that when she wanted to go see a movie that she wasn’t sure about, she would first look the movie up on Plugged In. She would then read the language portion and the sexual content portion herself, take a screen shot of each, and send the screen shots to me. After that, if needed, we could talk about her decision on whether or not to see the movie.
I am by no means a perfect parent, (see the example above!) but, I am sometimes amazed at the types of movies Christian parents allow their children to see. For example, there is currently a very gory and salacious horror movie in theaters that is not only rated R, but has additional signage posted on the ticket window warning parents of the graphic nature of the movie and alluding to the violence and blatant sexual content. Several of my daughter’s peers have seen this movie…some from Christian families!
So, back to my original question: Does it matter what kinds of movies we allow our Christian teens to see? I believe scripture holds the answer to this question.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11 (NIV)
“Be very careful then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 8:15-16 (NIV)
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praise worthy–think about such things.” Ephesians 4:8 (NIV)
“This is the message we have heard from you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:6-7 (NIV)
Soon enough, our teens will be living on their own, whether at college or in the work world. Then it will be too late to help them establish godly behavior patterns and to teach them how to make wise decisions that are pleasing to the Lord. Once they have reached the teen years, our time of influence and training is drawing to a close. Therefore, we need to make the most of it! And make no mistake…you are still responsible for your child, even when they become a teen…they are not adults yet, and you are the parent!
Be sure to check out Plugged In before you or your teen head to the movies next time. It’s a great tool to have in your parenting toolbox!