Kids And Violent Films
Saturday night I went to the movies with my next door neighbour. I had planned on going alone, but happened to hear him outside with his son while I was grilling dinner, and thought I’d invite him. (We both have the same infrequent “date nights” with our wives due to a lack of comfort leaving our kids with someone else; therefore the chances of seeing a “guy movie” in the one of maybe two movies we see annually in the theatres with our wives are limited.) We went to see Iron Man.
(Not that you asked, but it was an excellent movie, especially for a sci-fi/comic geek like yours truly. The casting was excellent, and they stayed reasonably close to the original story lines. Also, the camera work was quite good. The only flaw I found was how the protagonist looked when initiating flight: it was kind of awkward, although thinking back, the comic images were also kind of weird.)
About 30 minutes into the movie, a guy from the middle of our row (we were on the end), asks us to move, and trailing behind him are two kids, who we placed at around seven and at most four. I was shocked, and turned to my neighbour and asked if he would bring kids that young to see this film. He agreed with me, that they were too young to see something with explosions, executions, torture and open chest wound manipulation.
On the drive home, we talked about how old we were when we first saw violence in films. My first memory was seeing The Empire Strikes Back in theatres, which I saw at the age of six or seven. Now, looking back, I wasn’t traumatized by the experience of seeing someone have his hand cut off by his father, but if you asked me today if my six year old child would see a forcible amputation? I would emphatically refuse. He had a similar perspective.
However, it begged a larger question. Our sons will be two years apart, roughly speaking. Although in an ideal world, they would grow up not being exposed to violence, it would also be nice if they could swim at the beach near my parents’ place without getting sick, or live in a world where there was no need for combustion because we all drove electric cars. So the realistic question is how old can they be before we stop trying to shield them from things like Star Wars or guns or ninjas or whatever?
We didn’t really come up with any answers; just the fact that we are both worried about the day our son comes home having played with a gun at someone else’s house. How will we handle it? What can we do to avoid it? And also, the movie question: once they hit five or six, the summer blockbusters and their mass-marketed toy campaigns will draw them in. How can we make sure they are ready?
What do you think about violence in films that have toys attached to them? What rules do you enforce about who can see the movies? Is there a difference in the age a child needs to be to have the toys versus seeing the film? What about violent play in general? Do your kids have toy guns?