Deciding If Hunger Games Is Appropriate

Are parents preparing their kids to make good media decisions… or just over-protecting them?

Last weekend I sat with a young couple who were trying to decide whether the box office smash Hunger Games, now on blu-ray and DVD, is appropriate for their middle school daughter.

The wife concluded, “The two of us are going to watch it first, then we’ll determine if it’s appropriate for her.”

I applaud their methodology. If you think that a movie is questionable, then screen it first. ask yourself the four questions I asked in my post, After Seeing Hunger Games:

  • Is this story glorifying violence or inappropriate sexual situations?
  • Is this story making “bad” look “good” or enticing?
  • Does this story irresponsibly display imitatable attitudes and behaviors that our kids will absorb and eventually emulate?
  • Does this story needlessly sell out to showing “eye candy” like nudity or gratuitous violence?

You can see what I discovered from the film detailed in that blog post.

But here’s where it gets tricky. If the film is inappropriate, misleading, imitatable, or included gratuitous elements… should it be an automatic, “No! You can’t watch it!” ???

Not so fast.

My thoughts on this have changed a little over the years, especially now that my own kids are now going on 15, 17 and 19, and now that I’m seeing more and more parents with kids in college looking back and wondering why their kids are ill equipped to make good media decisions. I used to think that if a film was questionable… it’s a “No!” Now, I’m beginning to think that parents need to spend more time “co-viewing” media with their kids and discussing these elements as they see them.

I’m not saying take your kids to see Magic Mike and talk about stripping. Some films will be a pretty straight forward, “Sorry, we’re not going to see that one.” And frankly, if your kids are 11 and 13, I’d be a lot more stringent. But if you have a 17-year-old daughter that wants to see Hunger Games, Footloose… or a film that might be even more irresponsible in some aspects… why not watch it with her and talk about it? Your daughter will be 18 in less than a year and she can watch whatever she wants then. Is she ready for that moment?

We need to teach our kids to think for themselves so when they’re on their own they know how to make good media decisions.

What about you?
How are you helping your kids make good media decisions?

How are parents too strict or too lenient at times?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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3 Responses to Deciding If Hunger Games Is Appropriate

  1. Karin Erickson says:

    I think your approach is spot on!! We were the overprotective parents…partly because of the extremely strict homeschooling program we were in (Bill Gothard’s ATI) and partly because we stopped thinking for ourselves and failed in that area with our boys as well.
    Thankfully, they both went through only a little experimenting themselves and God in His Grace, overrode some of that strictness.
    Love you ministry; keep up the good work!!

    • Thanks for your transparency Karin. You’re not alone. I meet parents who tell me the exact same thing at every workshop I teach. God is good, and luckily his Grace is bigger than all of this!!! Thanks for the encouragement… keep up the good work!

  2. Paul Loeffler says:

    My wife and I have been watching NCIS w/our two oldest (12 & 14 when we started) and using it to teach this exact thing. It’s a favorite of ours, so we’re starting with them at the first season, and have made our way to the second. It’s opened up some amazing discussions, not only about what to watch and whether, but also about the world views of what we’re watching, and what media endeavors to communicate about our culture. We’ve even had the opportunity to talk about how what’s communicated changes regarding certain situations as times change… though that’s required me to talk about stuff that happens in season six or seven to get the point across. It’s been a great tool. We’re careful, but, as you have said, as they get older, this is stuff they’re going to be tempted to watch. Now’s the time to teach discernment. And no, they haven’t seen, nor will they see, every episode. In fact there have been a few that we’ve missed stuff on, and been sorry we’ve shown, but that’s lead to great dialogue, too.

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