I’m overwhelmed with the new entertainment choices available. For streaming services, there’s Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Disney+, AppleTV+, and Amazon, just to name a few. Other options include basic TV, cable TV, and thousands of movies and TV programs available as well.
Tens of thousands of entertainment choices mean parenting wisely is harder than ever—especially in a culture that increasingly celebrates what God calls evil.
How can a parent wisely discern family entertainment choices? There’s no silver bullet answer other than staying away from all entertainment! But there are resources parents can use to investigate or filter questionable entertainment content. No resource will answer all of your questions, but each can serve as tools for making a wise and informed decision for your family.
- PluggedinOnline is a ministry of Focus on the Family and reviews movies, TV shows, music, and video games highlighting questionable content (sexual, violence, language, etc.) as well as spiritual content (which might be questionable as well!). I’ve used Pluggedin for years and highly recommend them. (I’m also happy to see they have many reviews translated into Spanish.)
- Kids in Mind is a website with the mission of providing “parents and other adults with objective and complete information about a film’s content so that they can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.” They are “not affiliated with any political party, any cultural or religious group, or any ideology. The only thing we advocate is responsible, engaged parenting.” Their reviews feature a detailed explanation of questionable content as well as potential topics for discussion.
- Common Sense Media is a non-profit rates entertainment choices on a variety of categories (positive messages, positive role models, consumerism in addition to the typical sex, violence, and language) and includes helpful sections “Parents Say” and “Kids Say” to give perspectives of several members of the community. CSM gives personalized recommendations for your family based on age and even has YouTube channel reviews. Note: CSM is a secular organization and does not necessarily share biblical values. UPDATE: Common Sense Media has a partnership with VUDU (Walmart’s digital service). Together they offer a mode called “Kid’s Mode” with the hopes of making VUDU the most family-friendly video service out there. (VUDU’s “Family Play” mode looks great as well.) Learn more about features. (Thanks to Sammy Nieves for the heads up!)
- MOVIEGUIDE is a ministry that “reviews all movies from a Christian perspective and how movies affect children at different stages of cognitive development. We analyze movies using over 150 different criteria that cover the dramatic elements, the literary, the worldview, and the theological…and much more.” (Thank you Patrick for the heads-up on this one!)
- The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) includes a “Parent’s Guide” section on the listing for each show/movie and can be helpful in assessing the level and detail of questionable content. This feature is user generated and is often hit or miss depending on the popularity of the show/movie.
- VidAngel is a subscription-based ($9.99/month) video filtering service that filters out objectionable content of movies and shows, now with filters if streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. This service is compatible with a variety of devices. Since I’ve never used VidAngel personally, I’ll point you to helpful reviews for more information: BestCompany.com has 305 user reviews with an average of 4.2/5 stars and this review shows how it works.
Hopefully one or all of these resources will serve you and help you wisely shepherd your family in our world filled with too much fleshly trash. And if you do find your family exposed to harmful content—which will inevitably happen in our fallen world—consider it a discipleship opportunity.
Being a parent is tough in our over-sexualized and violent world, especially when we give the world a portal into our homes through media. Let’s be wise and thankful in using available resources to help us. In addition to these helpful resources, let’s not forget the church of Christ is an amazing resource to provide positive recommendations and negative warnings about entertainment choices.