Thoreau Quote

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Film censorship - getting it wrong

I've always thought of myself as quite conscientious when it comes to deciding whether or not to let my children watch a particular film or TV show or play a particular game. I'm not sure if I would say I'm strict (although the kids might disagree!) it's just that I've tried to make sure that they're not exposed to too much, too soon, before they have the maturity to handle it.

I think I may have taken the decision making process to extremes sometimes, insisting on watching films myself first. Oh, those lost hours! Still, '8 Mile' (a 15 film which required viewing to see if my 13 year old could watch it) was surprisingly good.

Anyhow, we went as a family to the cinema a couple of days ago. Family activities aren't especially easy to arrange now, the age gaps seem huge and it's more difficult to find things that everyone wants to do. Cinema is normally a pretty safe bet (after the extensive discussions and disagreements over which film, of course), apart from the fact that although the three eldest are now teenagers (help me!!), the youngest is still only 10 so any movie rated 12A requires a decision as to whether it's suitable.

I'm sure many of you with more than one child won't be surprised to hear that my level of conscientiousness, just like my parenting as a whole, has become, umm, shall we say become somewhat more relaxed over the years. That's not to say that I don't care now. It's more that I'm not so obsessive about it. I'm also aware that the family my current ten year old lives in, as the youngest of four, bears little resemblance to the family my eldest lived in when he was ten, despite the family members being the same. It's just birth order. Whilst T at that age was a member of a primary-school-and-younger aged family, A is being raised in a family of 'grown ups' and even with my attempts to extend her childhood as long as possible, it is bound to have an effect.

So because of this, and also I think partly because it's who she is, A is quite mature in what she can handle in terms of films. As she is approaching 11, I usually feel that a 12 rated film will be fine, so this time, it being a snap decision to go to the cinema, I didn't really pause to question it. I'd seen a trailer for the film we were seeing so it can't have jumped out at me as including anything to be wary of.

Unfortunately, it appears that this time I'd got it wrong and, although not distraught, A was a bit upset by parts of it. I was kicking myself for not researching more thoroughly in advance, but decided the best course of action was to acknowledge her feelings and open it all up by having us all talk about what we thought of the film. Getting it out helped and it even turned into a bit of a learning opportunity, as we discussed the responsibilities of the ratings committee. B and J were of the opinion that it should have been a 15, which ironically would have meant that J wouldn't have been able to see it either! I said I'd dock myself five Parent Points which the cheeky blighters agreed with and explained that these kind of decisions aren't always easy. They appeared to nod with understanding, so you never know, they might even take a 'No' decision without arguing in the future. I live in hope!

How do you choose which films your children can see? Is it easier or harder as they get older? Do you ever get it wrong?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Weaning Teens from Screens - Progress (I think!!)

I had a bit of a panic last week. I finally got around to contacting the school we've used previously for sitting GCSEs, only to find out that they are full this year and can't accommodate any external candidates. Given that I'd left it to the last minute, as usual, and the deadline for entering was fast approaching, this threw me somewhat! I was only aware of one other centre in Cambridgeshire, but that one is a bit of a drive for us and charges a bit more than I can afford, so I hastily began emailing around for some suggestions.

After a few hours I had a handful of places to try (gotta love the internet!!) including a state school just a few miles down the road. I wasn't hugely confident, given that on the whole state schools don't consider external candidates, but I gave it a shot and bingo! For some reason (I'm not sure why)they will only accept over 16s, but since B was 16 just a few days earlier we scraped in. How lucky! I can't think why they have this ruling but I'm not complaining! The charges are also very reasonable.

So, panic over and I turned my mind to reviewing the situation I was talking about a few weeks ago. Have I managed to wean my teens from their seeming dependence on screen-based activities?

Well, our weekdays certainly have a more constructive feel to them. I've got them making a list each morning of things they want to achieve in the day (an idea I pinched from my friend Ross, thanks Ross!! See her blog here: I've had them thinking about whether they need to prioritise anything (like GCSE studies, now we're committed to the exams!), but also to make sure that they have a mixture of activities in there. So, maybe start with The First World War followed by Pride and Prejudice and some Maths, but also throw in some baking, or photography, or walking the dog. I don't want them to think I expect them to list just academic activities. Neither do I expect them to follow their list in order, or complete everything by the end of the day. Things often take longer than we expect and life can throw a curve ball from time to time and our plans don't quite work out. But I am trying to get them to think about their days instead of just meander through them aimlessly.

How has this helped with the screen dependency? Well, the Xbox, Wii, computer games etc are not activities to appear in their planning! These are things they can do once they've been through their list (or had a fair stab at it anyway!). And it seems to be working. Prior to this, given the chance, they would just fritter the hours away on Minecraft. And if I banned screens until, say, 4.00pm, they would spend most of the day clock-watching and still achieving very little.

It's not a foolproof system. They're still a bit too keen to get to the screens and a bit too distraught if I declare them off limits for today. And we still have grey areas. "Can I go on Youtube, mum?" Well, that depends. Are you just looking at various films of cats falling off TVs or are you researching something? Are you just watching Minecraft videos to get around the fact that you can't play it right now, or have you actually started a project to film and commentate one of your own? But rather than simply laying down the law, I'm trying to get them to see the difference and monitor their own time. And that's not going to happen overnight is it, that's lifelong learning!