My grandchildren, ages 8 and 10, stayed with me last week. I wanted to take them to a movie. They begged to see an action movie I thought would be too violent. They pouted and said their parents would let them go. In fact, they named movies they had seen that surprised me. What should a grandmother do in this situation? I have made it a rule not to interfere with how my son raises his children.
With ready access to movies on videotape, it has become harder to monitor what even young children see, but we think you should stick to your standards.
Many lines on evidence suggest that viewing violence makes children more aggressive. Violence in movies (and on television for that matter) give children a false picture. In the entertainment media, violence may look like a good way to solve problems. Violent acts may appear fun and of little consequence, either to the perpetrator or the victim.
Indeed, a person who perpetrates violence is often portrayed as a hero (or heroine). None of these are healthy messages to give children. The fact that there is plenty of violence in the real world does not mean that it is necessary for children to confront it in their entertainment.
We think your wish to monitor what your grandchildren see when they are with you is laudable. You are also to be commended for not wanting to interfere with the rules of your grandchildren's parents.
You can solve this dilemma while still letting your grandchildren know how you feel by saying simply that when they are with you, "Grandma's Rules" are in effect and that those include seeing movies Grandma thinks are good for children. This allows their parents room to have different ideas about what is good for children and different rules in their home.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.