Finding Family-Friendly Movies by Bud Harlan

As parents today, you may find it difficult to sift through what is and what is not appropriate for your kids. Take a movie rating, for example. I think it’s safe to say that many “PG” movies of today would have been considered “PG-13” (and, in some cases, “R”) 10 years ago.

So, where do you start? What resources are available to parents who want to find an appropriate, kid-friendly movie for the whole family to watch on a Friday night?

I found a couple of online resources for parents, one of which also has a neat iPhone app to supplement its Web site.

Focus on the Family operates Plugged In Online, a Web site with hundreds of movie reviews (including movies currently in theaters). This one’s a real simple, easy-to-navigate blog that also has reviews on videos, music, TV shows, and games. Plugged In makes searching for movies super simple, and it also has a feature which allows you to view the most-read reviews.

Another interesting online resource I found was Common Sense Media. I only stumbled across this Web site because I first found its iPhone app. This Web site has almost 4,000 movie reviews and, like Plugged In Online, also reviews games, TV shows, and music. In addition, this Web site has thousands of book reviews and Web site reviews. Here are a few screenshots of what the Common Sense Media iPhone app looks like.



Here’s what you see when you open up the app. So, say you want to do a thorough review of a movie before taking the family to see it…



It lets you scroll through to select which movie you want to review. What I really like here is that it shows you how old you should be to watch the movie. None of those ambiguous movie ratings that loosely apply these days…


When you select "Read Our Full Review," you get a page of good content on what to expect from the movie. These icons are simple and easy to understand. I thought Common Sense Media did a great job including info that was important to parents. When was the last time you saw a movie and thought, “I would never want my child to grow up and behave like that”? This app actually shows you (via the “Role Models” icon) to what degree the movie might positively influence a child.



When you scroll down the app, you can read more information about the movie, what you need to know about the different movie elements, what’s good about the movie, etc. The neatest thing I found here was info on how you could talk about the movie with your kids. Instead of just watching a movie and letting that be that, this app gives you ways to "debrief" the movie with your children. This "debrief" feature could give you the opportunity to relate the movie to spiritual concepts, help you clear up any "societal" misconceptions, or even lead your child to Christ.

Any other tools for finding family-friendly movies we should know about?

Bud Harlan is the department intern for Childhood Training and Events at LifeWay and blogs for CentriKid Camps. For other kid-friendly tools and resources, visit

What’s on Tonight? TV, Movies, & Our Kids

I love to watch TV! In fact, some of my favorite downtime at the end of the day is getting to watch a favorite show we have recorded or to start a movie.

But with kids, there are often so many things to be careful about regarding the TV shows and movies they watch. We definitely draw boundaries as to the type of shows and movies that our boys watch, but sometimes they hear from friends about other shows and movies we would not let our boys see. So how do you decide what to let your kids watch?

CommonSenselogo.gifOne resource that I have used for evaluating movie and TV content is Common Sense Media. They provide a target age range for every movie and TV show and even video games, books, and music. Common Sense Media gives an age that they evaluate media to be appropriate for and then evaluates content based on several subject categories: Violence; Language; Sex; Consumerism; Drinking, drugs, & smoking; and Message & role models. Check out their evaluation on the new video release of Bolt to get an idea of how their system works.

PTC logo.jpgThe Parents Television Council is another good source for information regarding TV shows and what kids are actually watching. Check out their research on the best and worst TV shows for kids.

No matter what tool you use to evaluate shows and movies, sometimes the best option is to sit and watch shows together and talk about what you are watching. So many times even the best shows or sporting events can have commercials that are violent, sexually charged, or promote alcohol, so the best bet is to be involved and communicate about media with your kids.

Are there other tools you use to evaluate movies and TV shows? What are the best shows that your kids watch?