Should You Get a Pet for Your Child?

Many of us have have fond memories of the pets we had as children. However, most parents these days have less time to spend with their kids than our moms and dads did. Many families are also in the midst of a financial squeeze, thanks to a lessened economy and stagnant wages. Consequently, difficult decisions are sometimes necessary when it comes to what can be purchased.

Most children love the idea of a pet, while many adults don’t love the cost of vet and food bills. Wondering whether you should get a pet for your child? Here are some reasons why it is actually a good idea:

Exercise

While this usually won’t work with cats, dogs help to ensure that kids get outside and exercise, either through playing with or walking the dog.

Responsibility

Parents often struggle to instill a sense of responsibility in their children. Your kids may not care about the lawn, but they do care about the dog, so that provides motivation for them to regularly feed and care for it.

Reduced Anxiety

Is your child frequently anxious? Studies show that children with pets tend to be less stressed, as well as less lonely.

Increased Self-Esteem

Children who successfully raise pets, particularly ones that are popular and admired, experience an increase in self-esteem.

Fewer Allergies

Exposure to pet dander can be problematic for some people. However, studies have shown that children exposed to this sort of allergen at a very young age develop stronger immune systems. Consequently, they are less likely to have problems with allergies later in life.

Discipline

Helping to raise and train pets can help children know the importance of discipline. Kids come to understand that cats and dogs cannot be allowed to behave just any way they want; that lesson carries over to humans as well.

How to Choose the Right Movies for Your Kids

Parenting can be a full-time job and, even if it makes you feel guilty, it is sometimes necessary to plunk the kids down in front of the TV in order to get a few minutes peace. Or you might drop them off at the local multiplex for a few hours so that you and your partner can have a normal conversation that progresses more than 30 seconds without an interruption.

However, there are so many movies out there, it can be tough to know what is right for your child. The MPAA ratings system can help in turns of gauging the content, but not necessarily the quality. THE LEGO MOVIE was a genuine surprise: fast, smart, and funny for both adults and children. On the other end of the scale is THE EMOJI MOVIE (opening today), a ghastly, completely unfunny mess that displays no imagination, talent, or effort.

Reviews can help. Some critics are also parents and keep that in mind when they are evaluating movies. Knowing what does and does not work for most children is certainly important when writing about cinema aimed at that demographic. Are there any critics that you find to be especially good in this area? Follow them.

Try to watch some movies with your children and observe how they react to them. If the latest PG-13 superhero movie is too intense for your young ones, try to pick something similar, but less violent and frightening. If your child is too young to distinguish fantasy from reality, then anything that is PG-13 should be avoided for now.

Also, have a conversation with them. Find out what movies they liked and what it was that they liked about them. This will not only give you an idea of what to go for in future, but also what to avoid.

THE LEGO MOVIE. Courtesy Warner Brothers.

 

Should All Movies With Smoking Be Rated R?

The argument is almost as old as movies themselves: do motion pictures encourage people to act in a certain way? Do films that depict prolonged or detailed violence encourage people to engage in such acts? Do movies that depict rape convince some that it is fine to commit sexual violence? Do films that feature racist themes and characters encourage imitative behavior and attitudes?

The list goes on and can include any anti-social acts imaginable. Surveys conducted over the years vary, but generally come down on the side that seeing something in a movie will not encourage imitation from the vast majority of people.

Those who disagree with such conclusions often point out that children do not have the experience or judgement to avoid the temptation of certain activities in movies. Smoking has recently come up for criticism in this regard, with opponents recommending that any movie depicting tobacco or marijuana use receive the minimum of an R-rating (under 17 must be accompanied by an adult guardian), even if none of the film’s other content reaches that level.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which rates movies in the United States, does automatically give motion pictures depicting drug use a minimum of PG-13. There is no official policy regarding smoking, though it is sometimes included in the content warnings that accompany those ratings (movies with period settings and people constantly puffing away sometimes receive the humorous classification “historical smoking”).

My take is that children are far more likely to be influenced by what they see in everyday life, which is in their field of vision and imagination for much longer than a motion picture. If the parents or siblings smoke, it seems far more likely to me that others in that household will adopt the habit. Blaming movies for lapses in parenting and/or personal character seems like a cop out.

Sean Young in BLADE RUNNER. Courtesy Warner Brothers.

Do You or Your Kids Have Smartphone Addiction?

Most everyone with a smartphone will likely admit that they spend too much time each day looking at it. Not surprising as they are designed precisely for you to development an addiction. How many times have you received an alert and reached for your phone, only to notice something else? That thing catches your attention and, the next thing you know, you’ve spent 15 minutes looking at it and other related postings.

Social media is a wonderful way to catch up and stay connected, but it is also rather insidious in the way it encourages us to keep coming back. Have you ever posted a picture or video, and then relentlessly checked back to see how many people have clicked “like”? If you put something up that is widely shared and enjoyed, it provides a sense of validation and attention. Put simply, it helps you to feel good and some days, we really can use that.

So, how much is too much? This varies from person-to-person because our levels of responsibility do. However, if your phone use is preventing you from getting work done, encouraging you to tune out of conversations, and causing you to use your phone at inappropriate times (please don’t use it in movie theatres so you will be one less person I have to yell at), then it is a problem. Are you getting in trouble at work over your phone use? If so, is your Facebook feed really worth losing your job?

The best way to lessen your phone use is to put it away at set times of the day. Think about at least four times during the day when you can put it aside for an hour at a time. Once you are used to this, expand the number of “call free” times you plan for each day.

Teamwork is Wonderful for Building a Child’s Character

My friend, Beth, was talking to me about her son, Rob, who was a loner and had problems with authority. I was surprised to hear this because Rob had always struck me as a really polite, dedicated, and ambitious teen who was clearly going to get ahead in the world. Apparently, that was not always the case. Before the family moved here from Buffalo a few years back, Rob was constantly in trouble and failing several subjects.

Beth and her partner were at their wit’s end. She had discussions with several school staff members in order to get as complete a picture as she could of the situation. The one who expressed admiration for Rob was the gym teacher. Oh, he mentioned that Rob could be a real smart ass, but he also noted that the boy had definite physical ability that should be nurtured.

That gave Beth the idea of having Rob join some leagues. In our rural area, there are not a lot of choices. You can sign up for things in the city, but that means long car trips there and back that are simply not feasible on most people’s schedules. However, the county opened an air-supported dome awhile back and it offers league play for soccer, volleyball, and tennis.

Reluctantly, Rob signed up for all of them. The change came surprisingly fast: the boy developed a passion for the sports, especially soccer, and he grew to look forward to both the games and practice. His physique improved and that made him more confident. As Beth put it, “He can now be woo girls the right way instead of being an obnoxious jerk they don’t want to be around.”

Rob’s attitude brightened and he became used to a living his life by a schedule. That resulted in him enjoying school more, as well. Oh, he’d rather be kicking a ball around, but his marks are now all solid Bs. I’m really happy for both Rob and Beth.

Not actually Rob, but a pretty good likeness