Children and Violent Movies: How Do Parents Draw the Line?
The popularity of the Netflix series Stranger Things has been far-reaching and astounding. It’s shaping popular culture in a way not seen since Harry Potter, with similar storylines of children with supernatural powers fighting an evil enemy.
But it has also gotten many parents wondering about its gory and violent content, filled with blood, guns, monsters killing humans and vice versa. Unlike Harry Potter’s wizarding world, Stranger Things is more akin to 1980’s horror films like Aliens, Predator and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
To shield or not to shield?
In today’s times, it is proving difficult to completely shield our children from violent content, especially if a TV series is targeted at their age group. The same applies to computer games, prank videos or any kind of distressing imagery accessible on social media.
But the effects of viewing violent content – especially among children – are well-documented. Amongst the many negative impacts are the potential for aggression, fear of the world around them, desensitisation to suffering and a lack of empathy for others.
Christian parents are spiritual guides
Family is the backbone of Christianity and in the Bible, and parents have the spiritual authority to guide, discipline and protect their children with Christ at the centre. As such, Christian parents are their children’s spiritual guides, called to bring them up in God’s ways (Proverbs 22:6).
One of the best ways to do so is by having regular family devotions, a safe space to discuss and reflect on God’s Word while building trust and open communication between parents and children. This would also include guiding them in the area of entertainment and popular culture.
Turning to the Bible for viewpoints and answers
Firstly, it’s helpful to start off by realising that online providers like Netflix, Youtube or Twitch are merely platforms. They can be positive enablers or dangerous tools.
But parents can play an active role by directly engaging with their children, for example, by watching a movie or playing a game together with them. Such moments will provide opportunities for teaching and discussion of the messages conveyed within.
Questions like “What is acceptable, desirable and valuable according to this movie?” or “What does God’s Word say about that?” can help younger ones understand that the Bible has something to say about the world’s entertainment and its values, and that it’s important to assess every message in the light of Scripture with wisdom, discernment and prayer.
Helping children make sense of the world
Jesus said in Matthew 6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
It’s no surprise then that gruesome, violent and frightening images can influence a person’s thoughts and emotions. What more for children, who are particularly vulnerable and are less able to process the scenes they’ve been exposed to.
As authority figures, parents can be the guiding light to train the eye to focus on the Light in a world bombarded by images of violence, pointing them always to the truth found in God’s Word.
Check out our new Family Devotion website for resources on biblical parenting. If you’re a parent with pre-teens aged 10-14, you’re also welcomed to join our Family Ministries Facebook Group, which emphasises doing family devotions at home.
Some parts of this article were adapted from the booklet “Help! My Child Wants More Screen Time.” You can download it here for further reading and find more ways to have meaningful discussions with your children about screen time.
About the Author
Wan Phing Lim is a contributor to Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. Born and raised in Penang, she studied Politics before turning to a career in writing. She loves coffee, books and films.
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