Over the last month, my son has attended 4 birthday parties for boys. All of them turned 7. I've been a mother of a little boy for 7 years now and I am not sure I will EVER be good at buying presents for other boys. Going up and down the isles of the toy departments, I feel like I'm on another planet. Bakugan? HUH? I can't even pronounce it, let alone know what it is. And there are these mini skate boards. I'm completely CLUELESS as to what you do with them. The Lego isle, I can mostly relate to. I played with legos as a kid. They were hours and hours of fun. I built cars and houses and well, cars and house mostly. Then my little lego people would play house and that led to hours of imaginary play. So fun! However, in my lego-playing days there were just legos. No Toy Story Legos, no Star Wars Legos. Sure there were kits to make a car, or an airplane, but there was no movie label all over the box. Its uber ridiculous how movies are influencing our children on what toys they chose to play with.
A while back a friend told me that she and her son were watching Transformers. I can honestly say that I did not know that Transformers was a kid movie. Well, I checked the rating and its rated PG-13. And that got me thinking about all those toys on the shelves. Transformers, Iron Man, Tron, and now the Green Lantern. Sure some of these are cartoons for children (older children, I'm still not comfortable with my child watching them) but most of these kids recognize the name from the most current movie that is out. They see the toy on the shelves, it looks cool for whatever reason, and then they want to see the movie. Its excellent marketing. And it works. But the key factor in why this marketing strategy works is the parent.
I believe that as a parent, it is part of my job description that I monitor what my child is watching on TV and in movies. Its the monitoring of media that either keeps our children innocent for as long as possible, or exposes them to violence, bad language, and sexual content way before they are mentally capable of processing this information. Before they are capable of seeing something on screen and thinking "well, that's not morally right, and while I see it on screen for entertainment purposes, it doesn't mean that's how I should behave or talk". Instead when a child sees these movies that isn't ready, they are more likely to use the language they hear and act out the scenes without really knowing what they are doing or who they may hurt in the process.
A good friend of mine just told me about a very cool website, The Dove Foundation, that reviews movies based on whether it is family friendly. It is a great source for parents to use when trying to decide if your child should be allowed to watch a movie or not. This site gives just the facts of the movie and rates it on a 5 point scale for five catagories: Sex, Language, Violence, Drugs, Nudity and Other.
Based on their reviews, Cars 2 is suitable for any age. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is reviewed as not family approved. Just reading the reviews of Transformers makes me happy that I have not given it and let my child watch it.
My son may not be able to talk to his friends about some of these movies and he really has no interest in most of the toys, but that is fine by me. Because at his early stage in life he is learning what matters more, like morals and being a good person and having a healthy imagination.