HELP! Funding running out for important service for Parents.

In an increasingly complex media environment, parents need all the tools they can get to help them find enjoyable and age-appropriate content for their children. The unwillingness of state and federal governments to find funding to support ACCM’s award-winning- cost-effective and child-development-based movie and app review services sits oddly with that growing need.

Martha Depasquale who is the coordinator of the Australian Council on Children and the Media’s (ACCM) movie and app review services, reflects on the value of these services from a personal point of view.

In these past school holidays, one of my tasks was to review the movie Dumbo – a live-action adaptation of the classic 1941 Disney film. Memories of the original Dumbo are softened by time and nostalgia, and parents often relish the opportunity to revisit old favourites with their own children. A fellow mum at school stopped me, her five-year-old daughter at her side. They were planning a date to the movies and thought Dumbo could be a good option – it’s PG, after all, a kid’s film…what did I think? Talking both to my friend and to her daughter, I told them about the really, really sad parts of the film (like when the baby elephant’s mother is taken away); about the parts that she might find a bit scary (nightmare island with its glowing skull and creepy animals!); and that although some kids might really enjoy the thrill of director Tim Burton’s gritty and darkly-coloured version of a Disney classic, others might find it a bit disturbing. They listened to it all and, after much consideration, decided that perhaps Dumbo wasn’t the film for them. Not today anyhow.

Is there going to be a lot of violence or guns?

This conversation was poignant for me as it illustrates perfectly the value of the Know Before You Go movie review service which provides the opportunity to make an informed decision. Parents really do just. The classification PG (or even G! And don’t start me on M ratings…) is so broad and inconsistent that you have no idea, stepping into the cinema, whether what you see is going to be suitable for your child. Is there going to be a lot of violence or guns? Are my children going to be exposed to themes that they are not ready for yet? Or is there going to be something in this film that lingers in their nightmares and disturbs their sleep for months? (Because yes, that’s just what every parent needs…less sleep!).

Sometimes, it’s as simple as having the ability to talk to your child about what they might expect to see when they watch a movie; giving them the chance to prepare mentally and feel brave and ready to be challenged. Or perhaps to give you the opportunity to discuss an important theme or issue with a teenager who has been to see a film without you but could really do with a debrief. Know Before You Go movie reviews provide just this kind of detailed content information, and parents stand to lose it when funding ceases on June 30. A heavy loss indeed.

It’s common for parents to feel frustrated with the inadequacies of the classification system.

One parent comments:

There have been so many times my young children have been scared in G rated cartoons/Disney movies that we no longer take them to the cinema. We have been caught off guard too many times and have paid the price of sleepless nights with scared kids. I would prefer to have information about if a movie has any scary characters or incidents. I no longer trust the ‘G’ rating let alone the ‘PG’.

And the frustration certainly isn’t restricted to parents of very young children. The obscurity of our classification system is easily exploited: movies and associated merchandise being marketed to children much younger than the age-appropriate audience. Another parent writes:

One of the biggest issues is that merchandise is marketed to children much younger than 15 years (7 to 10-year-old boys in particular) so they want to see it. And if the merchandise is for them, as a parent you kind of think “oh well it is targeted to them it must be ok …

“Think Star Wars, Harry Potter – the list goes on. This is where the problem actually lies…. changing the rating will do little unless advertising guidelines change as well. The potential loss of Australia’s only movie review service for parents and children leaves us all a bit further in the dark.

Without public support, there will be no new reviews from 1 July 2019. Donations welcome!

See the work ACCM do and their reviews