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I have made a couple of first hand observations about parents and movies. First, parental attitudes about what is acceptable vary considerably from family to family. Violence, sex, consumerism and the underlying message of the film are important to most families, but to varying degrees. Well-intentioned and responsible parents often disagree about what is suitable and what is damaging.

Secondly, many parents find it very difficult to decide ahead of time whether a movie is going to be suitable for their family or not. Most movie reviews are not that helpful, because they do not provide specific information and they are not written from a parental perspective.

Yet, at a time in history when we have more entertainment choices than ever before, it seems to me that as parents we have a responsibility to go beyond just finding acceptable media choices, and to ask ourselves, “Is this be best possible media choice available for our family?” We ought to be able to find films that not only do not damage our children, but that reinforce positive values and will help them on their journey to adulthood.

We have found these three web sites to be helpful in preventing media surprises. They normally provide detailed specific information about film content for most films.

Reviews on this site include discussion of positive elements, spiritual content, sex, violence, language, drugs and alcohol, and other negative elements. This site also probably provides the most details, so if you didn’t want your child to see the evil queen from Snow White telekinetically crush a man’s heart, or stand naked in the bath with her arm over her breasts, or stab her husband on her wedding night, or burn herself alive in a fire, or pluck out the heart of a small bird and eat it, you could avoid that.

At the end of the reviews on this site you will find a section called the Family Corner. This material should be helpful to you in understanding why the film received it’s rating and what you and your children can expect to see if you choose to attend it. Snow White and the Huntsman, for example ” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and brief sensuality. Some scenes are downright gross, as when Snow White wades through a sewer, and the queen materializes in an oil slick that is also made up of ravens. There are also battle scenes with people impaled and burned.”

This is the only site that actually makes recommendations about which ages should see different movies. Snow White is rated for ages 14 and older. “Violent fairy tale isn’t for kids but will attract teens.” Specific information is displayed under the headings positive messages and role models, violence, sex, language, and substance abuse. “This is a very dark, violent, moody story with a lot of death and mature themes.”