Parenting decisions about movie and computer games

“No, you are not allowed to buy that Xbox game, look at what it says on the box, it’s rated MA15+!”

“But dad, those ratings are just a suggestion. They have to put them on the box.”

You know you are in trouble when your children start quoting lines from the Lego Movie back at you!

If only decisions about movie and game classifications were that simple! Instead I find myself at a stage of parenting where I am constantly having to explain and justify the rationale behind the decisions of the Government Classification Board!

One of my children is intrigued by the whole movie and game classification regime. This often leads to questions that I find somewhat hard to answer, such as: “Dad, what does ‘infrequent/mild profanity or crude humour’ mean?” or, “Dad, what does ‘infrequent/mild realistic violence’ mean?”

As a father, my natural instinct is to protect the curious minds of my children as much as possible. Sometimes I wish there was a place where I could go to protect them from all the evil in the world, but the reality is that no such place exists, especially in our technologically saturated world.

So what is the answer? I can sometimes find it overwhelming to navigate my way through the maze of decisions I regularly have to make about whether a movie, Xbox game or iPad App is suitable for my child.

On the one hand, I want to completely avoid any risk of them being exposed to anything that they may not be fully emotionally or psychologically able to deal with yet. But then, on the other hand, I do not want to be too hard line and cut them off from the world around them. How can I get the balance right?

I am not sure I have the answers and have had a couple of classic parenting fails in this whole area. However, here are a few tips that I have found helpful.

  1. Setting passwords and staying in charge. It can be easy to just give in to the tide of movies, apps and games that are instantly available and being requested by my kids. However, I have found that setting a password that only I know is a simple way of slowing down the decision making process. It gives me time to think and ask the question: “Do I really want my child to play that App?”
  1. I try to make informed decisions by reading reviews of movies and games on the Christian entertainment review service at This fantastic service provides valuable information for me as a parent about the exact content of contemporary movies and games. It reviews for things like positive elements, sexual content, violent content, language, drug and alcohol content and provides an overall ‘content caution’ rating.
  1. I find if I am unsure about the movie or game being proposed, I will watch it or play it with them. I think it’s important not to underestimate the influence that we as parents can have by just being with our children in this way. Apart from giving me the option to switch it off if it’s clearly not appropriate, it also gives me the chance to talk to my children in the moment about what they are viewing. I find that this can be a good way of empowering my kids with the interpretative lens that I want them to have for understanding what they are viewing.
  1. Forming partnerships with other parents. In our digital age, working together with other parents is a critically important component for protecting our children. It can take a huge amount of hard work to set boundaries and keep them with our kids. The last thing we want is to have this undone the next time they visit a friend and end up playing that MA15+ game. Being clear about our expectations and having a shared understanding with other parents is a powerful community strategy for protecting children.