Can Watching Movies Be Educational?
In our house, we speak movie. As avid film watchers and theatre goers, we often drop movie quotes and burst into song the way people drop gifs or emojis into social media conversations. We can quote entire sections of movies, have memorized whole musical numbers, and recognize film score composers by ear. And now that our kids are older, they do it too! It’s one of the things that connects our family and encourages our kids’ curiosity and critical thinking skills.
You may be feeling a bit skeptical about how watching movies could do that, but co-viewing media with your kids is actually beneficial to your children in a multitude of ways. Even the folks behind Sesame Street agree!
What is co-viewing?
Whenever you sit down and watch a movie or YouTube video with your child, you are co-viewing. When you ask questions and talk about that media with your child, you’re engaging in what’s called instructive mediation. And taking it a step further, when you involve the whole family in that process, that’s joint media engagement (JME). It’s also a form of social media.
The benefits of social media
We often think of social media as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, which can be a polarizing topic amongst parents. By definition, “social” means doing things together, and those apps aim to engage people together in a social platform with a specific form of media. But by the same definition, any activity where the family consumes media together is social media, too, making family movie night an excellent platform for connection and engagement.
Here are just some of the benefits:
- Multiple ways to engage
- Inspires authentic conversation
- Discussions of relevant and timely topics
- Connection to personal experience
- Curiosity building
How do I get the most out of co-viewing?
To maximize the benefits of co-viewing, try these tips!
Pick the right movie
Try This: Let the kids choose the movie! Not sure what to pick? Use Common Sense Media to make sure it’s age appropriate (you know your children best!) or ask in a Facebook group like 2021 Parenting. Not That: It can be tempting to just pick a movie yourself, but co-viewing benefits are greatest when it’s kid-driven. If you’re worried about what movie your kids will choose, select a couple of appropriate options for them to choose between (bonus – this works for any situation where there’s a choice to be made!)
During the Movie
Try This: Take an intermission halfway through the movie to grab some snacks, use the bathroom, or to check your phone. You can also use this time to check in with everyone on how they’re doing. Not That: It’s not co-viewing if parents are on their phones or finishing up a work project. Just like in a movie theatre, turn off your mobile devices and laptops, and be present with your family. Besides, your brain deserves a break from all that, anyway!
Ask Questions Before & After
Try This: Come up with thought-provoking questions to ask your child before AND after the movie. Some examples might be:
- What do you think will happen in the movie?
- Who was your favorite character, and why?
- Did the movie turn out how you expected?
- If you were in a situation like the main character, would you do anything differently?
- What was your favorite/least favorite part, and why?
- Was there anything you didn’t understand or were confused by? What could have made that better?
Not That: Don’t rush the question-asking after the movie. Give everyone a few minutes to process what they’ve seen. It’s perfectly ok if your children don’t have deep or original answers to your questions – like other skills, it takes time to develop those mind muscles! Remember, the objective is to share the media and build connection by engaging with each other over what you’ve seen. Co-viewing and joint media engagement aren’t just limited to videos either. Listening to music, playing video games, and other digital experiences can be part of this “social” media as well, as long as you and your child are engaged in it together. Thinking about the things your family likes to do, what kinds of activities could you turn into social media experiences?
About the Writer
Educational writer, gaming enthusiast, mom of two