We receive a lot of email from parents complaining about the movies playing during their airplane trips. Being trapped with the wrong movie can be a nightmare for parents -- and if it's scary, sexy, violent or otherwise age-inappropriate, there is not much you can do. Summer travel can make this issue even more pressing for families. Here are some ways to avoid the problem.
Check before you go. Check with the airline to see what movie is playing, then go to Common Sense Media to see what you need to watch out for, and get suggestions on how to discuss it with your kids.
Talk to your kids. Prepare them before the flight. Let them know that they may see images you don't think are age-appropriate for them. Talk about how they feel when they see them, and let them know what they mean to you.
Bring alternatives. Cards, games, books -- anything to keep them from looking up at the screen. And be prepared to be engaged with your kids; they may need extra help to be distracted from the screen.
Write to the airlines. Let the airlines know how you feel about this issue. Suggest movies that you'd rather see or other alternatives -- including non-movie options (TV shows, short-subject videos, etc.).
Fight fire with fire. It seems silly to play a movie just to distract your kid from the one playing overhead, but it does offer you more control. (Some airlines loan out DVD players.)
See if JetBlue is going your way. For summer 2011, the airlines is offering all kids on JetBlue flights a free activity kit with reading games based on PBS Kids educational programming. (Or just use the company's SoarwithReading site, which offers downloads to all.) That ought to keep kids' eyes off the screen.