Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Common Sense Media

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We’ve come a long way from my early concerns about young children and screen time. My initial knee-jerk attitude that TV is evil has matured into a more nuanced one.

There’s no reason for children under 2 to watch television. In my opinion, some touch screen apps may be appropriate for toddlers, in a very limited way, since they are interactive and respond to the child’s actions. Older children can consume film and TV shows within reason, but I strongly encourage parents to watch with them to make for a shared and interactive experience. I also think that it’s important that parents preview the media that their children will consume to make sure that it’s appropriate and that any lessons not in keeping with family values are discussed. Advertisements should be limited and any that are shown should be explained as an attempt to sell and not a reflection of truth.

My children are 9 years old. They are allowed 2 hours of screen time on each weekend day. On rare occasions, if they’re done with homework and we have some time before bedtime, we’ll watch a movie together on weekday evenings. They are also allowed unlimited screen time to research and write their independent study projects, which are usually worked on in Google Docs.

There are occasions on which M and J want to watch a show or movie on Netflix that I haven’t yet seen. Very rarely, we go to the movies to watch a new release. My kids will learn about a new kids’ website at school and ask if they can visit it. In these cases, I turn to Common Sense Media. This website and its associated app are a goldmine of practical information for parents.

When you search for a book, show, game, or movie, the resulting list includes an age appropriateness rating for each result. This rating isn’t the one given by the movie/game studio or publisher, but is based on developmental criteria and the specifics of the content of the media.

Common Sense Media gives clear age ratings for books, games, and movies.

More detail is available for each item, including commentary about themes that might be worth discussing with your child. You can also read reviews and comments from both parents and children.

Common Sense Media provides helps parents decide whether a show, game, or book is appropriate for a child.

I recently turned to Common Sense Media when it occurred to me that my children might be old enough for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I hadn’t seen the movie in 18 years and couldn’t remember how overt its sexual content was. The review’s first sentence answered my question: “Parents need to know that some of the nuances of the storyline and much of the film’s innuendo-laden humor will go right over children’s heads.” Although the site recommended the movie for children 10 and up, I felt confident that my daughters could handle it. And they did. They loved it. They caught onto some of the darkness in the storyline, but completed missed the innuendo in the midst of all the slapstick. There was a teeny bit of language I could have done without, but the Common Sense Media review ratings had warned me of that.

If you haven’t visited the site before, I strongly recommend a visit to Common Sense Media at commonsensemedia.org. I wouldn’t do without it.

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Twin Sister Love

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My 7-year-old twin daughters, M and J, love each other, deeply and openly. They bicker and annoy each other on purpose, but their love for one another is never in doubt. They may argue at bedtime, sometimes until late at night, but they fall asleep in each other’s arms 99% of the time.

Twin Sister Love from hdydi.com

Every few weeks, J tells me worriedly, “This might hurt your feelings, but I love M more than anything.” I always let her know that my feelings are doing just fine and that her love for her sister is completely appropriate.

The other day, M was admiring her own waist length hair in the mirror. “I’m never cutting my hair,” she told me, “except to trim it. Having my hair cut off is my worst nightmare. No. J dying is my worst nightmare. But I like my long hair.” Some might consider her statement morbid, but it was delivered as fact.

A while ago, J suffered a theological crisis in church when she realized that she was supposed to love God above everything, even her sister. She began to cry in the middle of service. “You don’t understand,” she told me vehemently when I tried to soothe her. “You don’t have a twin sister and you don’t even believe in God!” She was finally comforted by a friend in the congregation who told her that her love for her sister, the sacrifices she was willing to make for her, was a reflection of J’s love for God and God’s love for her.

J and M don’t have any homework this week and will be leaving to spend Christmas with their father’s family tomorrow. On the spur of the moment, finding ourselves with some free time, we decided to go to the movies and watch Frozen.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock, TX, the only movie theatre near enough with a showtime that worked for us. I hadn’t gone before, assuming it would be a cheap and underwhelming attempt to copy the Alamo Drafthouse. Instead, I was pleased to find a spotless and charming movie theatre with excellent food–the fries were better than those at the Alamo–unobtrusive but attentive waitstaff during the movie, comfortable chairs, well-designed tables that fit even my 7-year-olds, and excellent film and sound quality. I was impressed even without trying the beer brewed on site; after all, I was driving.

We loved the movie. J left the theatre singing, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” All three of us were smiling. We agreed to buy the DVD as soon as it came out. (If you go to see the movie, watch for the disclaimer at the end of the credits. I laughed so hard!)

I’m a sucker for traditional musicals and this was a modern throwback to the days of Cinderella and Snow White, where the main characters broke into song midscene. I started out a little annoyed that this was to be yet another story about a damsel in distress being saved by a swashbuckling man, but there was a nice twist to story that pleased the feminist and strong single woman in me.

The part of the movie experience that touched me the most, though, was a moment in which the two main characters, sisters Elsa and Anna, clearly put their love for each other first. I glanced at my own little girls during that moment and caught my sweet J brushing a tear from her eye. The parallel between her connection to M and Anna’s to Elsa hadn’t escaped her either. She smiled at me sheepishly and said, “I just love M.”

I hope that love lasts always.

Unfortunately, my sister and I have drifted apart, living very different lives on different continents as we do. We’re nothing like twins, born over a decade apart. I wish she knew how much I love her and felt comfortable opening up to me, but I realize that it may never happen. The kind of love I have to give may not be what she wishes to receive. Meaningful long distance relationships may never be her comfort zone.

May my daughters never feel that loss.

I am so grateful that even such mainstream media companies as Disney recognize the value of the relationship between sisters. Brotherly love is harder to portray, thanks to our societal assumptions that emotions like love belong in the feminine domain. I can’t help remembering a passage in One and the Same (previously reviewed by yours truly) in which Abigail Pogrebin talks about how hard some identical twin men find it to find romantic partners who aren’t frightened off by their intimate relationships with each other.

Are your multiples close? How do others perceive their relationship?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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