Seriously. After dinner, have the whole family gather round the television.
This might sound contradictory to everything you've read in the past. But we hope this advice will help your family start a conversation on issues that matter.
We've heard the negatives associated with television. Kids who are couch potatoes tend to shy away from sports or reading. Plus, they will likely witness more than 8,000 murders before finishing grade school.
The panicked response might be to unplug everything – the computer, the television, the DVD player. But we suggest simply changing the channel.
Who knows - you and your kid might actually learn something.
Even if you're speaking to the most rebellious of teenagers, we don't expect this to be a hard sell, especially when you've got Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx and Charlize Theron to help you.
Just throw in a social statement and you've got the recipe for movies with a message.
Movies with a message
This is exactly what Jeff Skoll had in mind when he moved to Los Angeles a few years ago to start Participant Media. Normally, the Hollywood crowd would have been more skeptical of the newcomer with the big ideas for socially-conscious blockbusters. But Skoll was no starry-eyed producer trying to find his break.
Skoll's story reads a little like a movie script. Born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, Skoll read the works of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell growing up. He was touched by their social messages and set out to become a writer who tackled the world’s issues through novels.
The whole writing thing didn't really pan out. But after going to school for electrical engineering, another project did. You may have heard of it – it's called eBay.
A decade after pumping gas in North York, Skoll retired from eBay a billionaire and again started dreaming about writing. This time though, it wasn't books. It was movies.
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In Los Angeles Skoll quickly found the appetite for movies with a message was already there – people were just afraid to take the financial risk. So he hired writers, producers, actors and film crews and founded a production company.
Skoll’s initial success came with the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Aside from winning an Oscar, the documentary got people talking.
But not all politicians can be as charismatic as Al Gore and his PowerPoint slides. So, Participant began looking for different box office draws without sacrificing social message.
In North Country, Oscar-winning actress Theron played a woman suing a mining company for gender discrimination. Foxx starred as a homeless man in The Soloist alongside Robert Downey Jr. in a film that shed light on mental illness and poverty in America. Matt Damon stared in The Informant!, a dark comedy which focuses on the man who blew the whistle in a 1990s price-fixing conspiracy.
These films not only entertain, they share a valuable message that both you and your child can learn from. By discussing issues as a family, you can help spark your child's interest in taking action on what they just learned.
Social justice and entertainment don't have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, together they can be powerful in a getting a message across. So tonight, rent a socially conscious movie and gather the family around the television.
Just make sure the kids pick up their books again later on.
Tips for Parents:
1. Be selective: There are lots of options out there. Start choosing programs with a more socially-conscious message. Stick around when your kids watch.
2. Pause: Challenge the points you are watching and encourage your kids to do their own research. This way, you can help teach critical thinking.
3. Vote with your remote: If you don't like what you're seeing, turn it off. Model this behaviour and your kids can learn to do the same.
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