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Is it proper to let one’s children watch movies?

 

Rabbi Zev Leff
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For a child in an environment where he will not be exposed to movies at all, letting him watch even a glatt kosher movie will give him an unnecessary taste of the genre, which could lead him to want to watch other movies that are less than kosher or out-and-out treif.

But for a child in an environment where he is inevitably going to be exposed to movies – at home or by extended family or friends – exposing him to movies with strict and definite guidelines will be for him positive insofar as it will set standards and satisfy and guide his desire for movies to only acceptable ones.

This directive applies to similar situations where sheltering one from negative influences totally is ideal. If sheltering is impossible, guiding one’s exposure and directing it in a positive manner and teaching self-control is the way to go.

— Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,
popular lecturer and educator

 

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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

It is proper to let parents decide for themselves if their children should watch movies as well as which movies they should or should not view.

The variables of the decision are significant: the age and maturity of the child, the content of the movie, and the religious dynamics of the family and extended community. Responsible parents need to evaluate what is best for their children.

Many of our children and grandchildren grow up in relatively sheltered cultural environments. They have limited exposure to people and ideas outside their own circle of family, schools, and synagogues. Victor Hugo noted that “narrow horizons beget stunted ideas.” If we want our children to expand their horizons and feel a connectedness with humanity at large, the arts – including film – can play a vital role.

Through books, films, and art, children are introduced to various perspectives. They grow as thinking and sensitive human beings. They become aware of the lives and concerns of people outside their immediate experience. They confront ideas, emotions, and conflicts that help them cope with the complexities of life.

Parents have a huge responsibility in guiding their children so that they are exposed to the best that is available in our culture. Although many popular movies today are problematic from a religious point of view, other movies are powerful, instructive, or just plain entertaining.

— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

 

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Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

We – frum adults – view the world as teetering on the edge of insanity and immorality. We see the lack of family values, we see marriage collapsing, and we see a tremendous upheaval in all the social mores we take for granted.

Since we have fully-formed worldviews, we’re able to see what’s going on in the world as deviant and abhorrent. For children, however, it’s different. The generation they grow up in is their reality. They assume it’s normal and it becomes the baseline against which they’ll measures everything in the future.

Therefore, any exposure to any form of media whatsoever has to be very, very carefully weighed with the understanding that I am potentially allowing the world’s version of reality and morality shape my child’s views. Tremendous, tremendous precaution is necessary.

— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz

 

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Rabbi Yosef Blau

The question of whether it is proper to allow one’s children to watch movies touches on two broader questions. Any response would reflect an attitude to the value and danger of exposure to the outside culture. It also would have to take into account different approaches to child-raising.

Clearly, the Orthodox community is split on how much to separate from – and how much to integrate into – the broader society. Except for those who take absolutist positions, drawing lines is always difficult, and since society’s norms are not fixed, the lines we draw have to be constantly re-evaluated.

With the availability of new technologies and social media, even the most closed societies may overestimate their ability to limit exposure. A child with a smartphone or iPad doesn’t need to go the movies to find objectionable material to watch.

Part of bringing up a child is to learn when and how to allow the child to learn to make intelligent choices. One of the most difficult but necessary aspects of being a parent is allowing a child to make a decision the parent disagrees with.

— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at
YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

 

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

In a word, “No.”

But it is a little more complex than that. What do we mean by children, what sort of children are we talking about, and what sort of movies are we talking about?

It’s a shame when we opt for a movie to serve as a “babysitter” as we pursue a few moments of peace and quiet. That said, there are plenty of educational movies available today that can actually inspire children about general Jewish values.

But needless to say, “Uncle Moshe” and “Mitzvah Boulevard” are only going to appeal to a specific age group. There is nothing for children of an older age. Does that mean one should resort to Disney and the like?

In many “frum” homes, the answer will be a resounding “No.” In other, so-called “modern” homes, the answer will be, “Why not?” The point is: Different people have different standards as to what they might consider to be in conformity with normative Judaism and halacha.

But there remains one underlying common denominator applicable to all: What we see invariably impacts our minds and hearts. Hence Judaism’s emphasis on shmiras einayim.

So, even as one might decide it is acceptable to show one’s children some movies, one needs to appreciate that the content and the message is going to make a lasting impression on precious souls. It remains imperative therefore that parents who might choose to be more lenient in this regard exercise extreme discretion.

— Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch
lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

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