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AVATAR: How old should your child be to see it?

Mine are 12 and 8 and they saw the 3D version.  Twice. I don’t think my heart is back to normal over it. I don’t have them on weekends, so they get to do things they wouldn’t be able to do with me. They told me it was cool but judging from the conversation my younger one was having with his brother, he didn’t really understand all of it.

It took me a few weeks , but when my turn came to watch it, I was flabbergasted. D and I couldn’t believe that my boys had seen it. It’s not so much an issue for my 12-year-old, because I know he is able to process things better. He’s already there, but I still wish they’d seen something else.  Though the movie has its pluses–Pandora, the whole idea of it, the rich and imaginative visuals–I feel it also has its minuses. It was quite adult and the violence was too much. The language was also not so child-friendly: bitch, screwed, etc. There’s also the whole idea of Avatars and how a human being can have one, how the soul can easily and mechanically  be transferred to a giant  blue being–well, I have reservations about children seeing that, especially kids below 12. It’s so abstract and cold, really, and they’re not quite at the point where they can separate fantasy from reality. There are implications and I don’t take them lightly.

There were lots of little kids in the theater when we watched.  There was an infant beside me with an older sister, about 4, who kept asking her mom to take her home. She said things like, “I don’t like that man, Mama”, “That’s scary,” “Please can we go home? Please?” and all her mom said was “SHHHHH! SHHHHH!” I wanted to tell her to listen to her child. When a child cries out for help, you don’t ignore her. The child eventually shut down and fell asleep, but I wanted to tell the mother that no movie is worth your child’s sense of safety.

My youngest has been playing soldier games since. I consulted with a respected child psychologist who agreed that the violence was too prolonged in the movie, but she said she was glad my son could release it through his play. I’m glad that he can release it, too, but my question is: why are the parents exposing their children to stuff they need to release? Isn’t our role to provide the ground of safety and comfort?

The movie is rated PG-13. That means ANY child below 13 can come in as long as he is accompanied by a parent. The burden is really on us to decide what is age-appropriate for our children. We need to ask ourselves if the movie will support health, safety and a warming picture of the world or will it bring disturbance on any level, offer a hard and violent picture of the world, inject too abstract concepts into their developing thought and feeling processes, assault their fragile nervous systems and even desensitize them with relentless violence scenes, etc, etc. Asking our kids if they are okay is not enough, because they are not yet in control of what happens to them in the realm of the soul. They do not have filters. They can say the movie was cool if you ask them, but you really need to observe them with a keen eye and open heart. You really need to make the hard and inconvenient decisions about what enters their soul life, at what age, and WHY. I don’t think that’s a question parents ask themselves often enough.

I think my younger child could have waited a few years before seeing this movie. If he were told that it’s a movie for older children, he would have accepted it. He may grumble a bit about how it’s unfair that his brother gets to watch it, but that would have passed, and a more age-appropriate activity could have been presented that he would have gladly taken up.

I fear that we have become an entertainment-addicted culture. When we think of how to spend time with our children, we think in terms of entertainment. Children don’t need entertainment, as long as they are allowed to play and they weren’t exposed to too much media early in life. Kids who have not grown up with computers and television have amazing imaginations and watching them play will leave you breathless. We don’t need to entertain them. We can sit quietly as they paint or draw, build or read. Their worlds are more imaginative and creative than ours. There is no need to worry that they are not entertained.

Many will say that violence is reality. Yes, there is violence in the world, but it doesn’t mean we introduce it to our children, the younger the better.  Our task today is to show them a picture of health so that they can carry that forever as substance, and they can be effective vessels against violence and cruelty because they will know the difference, instead of being desensitized because we’ve introduced it to them so early in life.

Next time you bring your child to a movie, pay attention to the rating. If your child is below 13 and it’s PG13, see it first, and then decide if the images and concepts in the film are appropriate for your child–not just his age but his constitution. We have to ask ourselves who is really served and what is gained, when we expose children to violence so early in life. If you find that the movie was great for you but you have reservations even about just one scene, postpone having your child see it. You can always download it or buy the DVD later. Don’t buy into the hype of seeing it 3D!! The health and well-being of your child always comes first.

Waiting can be a good thing.  Timing can be everything. And never, ever, ignore a mother’s instinct.

2 Comments

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  1. Anne Fisher / Oct 5 2010 2:39 am

    Hi
    I am interested in your opinion on Avatar as I am struggling to accept the violence that my 7 year old grandson is being subjected to at his Steiner School. He had difficulty in class 1 with the stories that included beheadings and is now being read The King of Ireland’s son on a daily basis. He has fainted on a couple of occassions and his parents have been unable to get a satisfactory answer to why the story had to have beheadings. hanging, infanticide and torture and the like in it.

    It is the repetition of unpleasant violence that makes him imagine it is happening to him and it is then not unnatural that he cannot deal with it. He has not been to the cinema and only watches pre school TV for very limited periods so there was nothing of this in his head before the stories put it there. Until he heard these stories at school he loved school but he became nervous with nightmares last year, and now dreads main lesson. His parents intend to not take him to schoool for the worst three sections, but why is it being covered at all? There are so many wonderful stories of trial quests and battling adversity without these specifics.

    Can anyone help us understand please why they are trying to put him through this?

    Thanks- Anne

  2. Alrey / Feb 15 2011 4:11 pm

    Hi, Panjee,

    That movie my 12 yr old Angel didn’t watch. She wasn’t interested as much as with the likes of Tangled or a Pixar movie where she’s able to interact with the characters and learn good lessons on ‘living with each other’…loving.

    My Angelica since she was in her mother’s womb I’ve been almost totally involved in raising her to what she is today…a bubbly, smiling, sociable, prayerful angelic child.

    She’s been on ‘fluid’ homeschooling with me as a solo parent ever since she was born. Her only exposure to traditional schools was Prep and an unfinished 1st grade at Manresa Pque (slipped her out after an unfavorable event).

    I’m strongly considering now to bring her in the Steiner system this year for a more structured schooling and play with other kids which she dearly loves.

    You write well and must be a wholesome mom to your kids and husband.

    Bless you.

    Alrey

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