Trapped on a Plane with an In-Flight Movie

How to deal with age-inappropriate media when traveling.
Sierra Filucci Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two Categories: Screen Time, Violence in the Media
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two

Talk about a tricky parenting situation -- you're trapped on an airplane playing a movie on the drop-down screen that's totally wrong for your kids. Whether it's scary, sexy, violent, or otherwise age-inappropriate, there's not much you can do. Parents can ask the flight attendants for special accommodations, but even that doesn't always work. Here are some ways to address the problem.

Check before you go. Check with the airline to see what movie is playing, then check our movie ratings 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 might 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 what's playing.

Choose a different airline. Learn which airlines have back-of-seat screens, so you can help kids choose age-appropriate material.

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. Load up an iPad or bring a laptop with a selection of DVDs. Airports often rent out portable DVD players, too.

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.). You can also file complaints with the Department of Transportation.

About Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women's and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley,... Read more

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Comments (3)

Parent of a 5, 8, 12, 16, 19, and 22 year old written by djfague

As a mother of 6 who has had to trek across the country to see family for the last 22 years, I've learned a few tricks with little ones: First, your state of mind has to be about the kids. This is not an opportunity for Mom and Dad to read, watch the movies, or work on your computer while expecting kids to entertain themselves. This is an opportunity for one on one time with your little ones. Second - there is no shame in extending screen time for the older ones while in flight. Third, backpacks: big kids have their own entertainment in their backpack. Dad/Mom has tickets, food and diapers. Mom/Dad has little guys entertainment when they are too little to carry their own. The food compensates for the little bit and icky choices on the plane. Buy food you don't usually allow for an exciting treat. Licorice or gummy bears is key for take off and landing - the chewing and swallowing required prevents plugged up and then sore little ears. Bottles or nursing for littlest ones also relieves ear pain at take off and landing. In the backpacks - big kids can bring summer workbooks and required summer reading (it gets done without missing out on any fun when you do it on a long plane ride - this is motivating for middle and high schoolers!) as well as handheld games. Small travel games that can be played with eachother are a nice break from handheld digital games. Check the game section of toys stores, target, walmart. Cards and card games are great, too. For little ones, books on tape have transformed to books on CD to books on MP3. Check your local library for these! They love to listen to books with sound effects. One quart size ziploc bag with a kid-fist size of play doh in a sandwich size ziploc bag and a few play-doh toys that all fit in the quart size bag lasts a long time. Model magic also works well, but doesn't work so well with play doh rollers, form, cut outs. Empty the junk drawer: paperclips, mini stapler, brads, mini hole punch, mini pen, and a small pad of paper, etc. is very entertaining to a little one who is never allowed into a junk drawer. (And you come home to a cleaned out junk drawer!) Mom and Dad need to be involved for safety - but the little one will thrive on the one on one. The invention of color wonder and accompanying books is a fabulous thing to bring along. Kids can actually get tired on board the plane - have them pack their favorite stuffy, blankey, etc - it soothes them when they are cranky. Think along these lines and your little ones won't even notice the screens. If you are thinking in terms of one on one and enjoying the time with the little one, the flights go by quickly, your engaged child will impress fellow passengers and you'll never flinch when considering a long trip with kids.
Teen, 15 years old written by JellyfishJam38

Once I was on a plane and they played Dawn of the Dead, which I found a rather hilarious decision, but nevertheless, it left plenty of little kids crying!