We’ve all been there — you’re watching When Harry Met Sally, invested in the pitfalls of a classic romance when your parents walk in, sit next you, and the infamous restaurant scene comes on. Awkward.
Turns out the uncomfortable family movie viewing experience is more likely than ever. Data shows that a lot more people, a whopping 20% of Americans, now live with their parents, grandparents or other relatives.
On the bright side, sharing a space with your loved ones can also mean that you’ll have more opportunities for bonding — including those moments watching your favorite TV shows and movies.
And when it comes to flipping channels and app surfing, everybody's doing it. According to a Nielsen report, those in the 55 and older age bracket matched the 18 to 34 age group in the amount of time spent streaming. So, while parents of the past might have issued colorful warnings about “TV rotting your brain,” parents these days are joining their adult children for movie marathons and serious series sessions.
If you’re thinking about introducing your parents or 55-and-over loved ones to the world of streaming, T-Mobile recently announced that its Magenta 55+ plan will include Netflix on Us for families and its Magenta MAX 55+ plan includes Netflix Basic with one line or Netflix Standard with two lines. But before you butter your popcorn, we’ve got some helpful tips on how to make the most of your multigenerational movie nights.
We crunched numbers, dug into research and spoke to a couple industry experts to offer you some of the biggest "Dos!" and the baddest "Don’ts!" when it comes to recommending or watching movies with your parents and older relatives.
DO: Check the ratings before you watch a movie.
It’s been a tough year and our brains are tired. It’s no wonder that with Netflix’s vast amount of content, we are having trouble making a choice. When it comes to watching certain genres with your folks, ratings can be the guiding force that you need to prevent those “suddenly I need to check the mail mid-movie” moments. Just because you watched After We Collided when you were in your feelings one night, doesn’t mean you want to watch something like it with the parental units. Trust us.
Kristen Baldwin, TV critic for pop-culture hub Entertainment Weekly, offers up some thoughts on the role of ratings.
“If you’re going to watch a show with your parents, make sure you’re not getting any content surprises,” Baldwin says. “Take Bridgerton, for example. Even though the rating is TV-MA, the description mentions eight close-knit siblings and other things that don’t hint at the explicit scenes in the actual show. It always helps to read reviews, look at ratings and do a little research before watching.”
Ken Windrum, associate professor of cinema at Pierce College in Los Angeles, also has some wisdom to share.
“The biggest piece of advice that I have about recommending movies is to know your audience,” Windrum says. “Discomfort tends to arise with more explicit content. If it ever gets too awkward, you can always just switch to something more family-friendly.”
DON’T: Let your parents use slang without knowing the meaning.
How could we ever forget the infamous “Netflix and chill” phase of internet slang. No doubt, there were many conversations where kids tried to warn their parents that no, it wouldn’t be an appropriate way to invite the neighbors over. Slang is interesting because it constantly evolves, and sometimes the true meanings of certain phrases can be more elusive than others.
What’s (almost) always safe for parents, though? Movie quotes!
Baldwin notes the ability of TV and movie quotes to be a unifying force in a household, or a way to instantly communicate to someone that your tastes might be different from theirs.
“Quotes can be a common language. You immediately know what your family member or friend is talking about,” Baldwin says. “And when you’re getting to know someone, it can be a quick way to communicate likes and dislikes. If I quote a line from Friends, for example, the person might laugh and share a quote of their own. Or I might find out that they hate that show.”
DO: Watch your favorite shows on the go.
As we reminisce over the days of going into crowded movie theaters full of laughter (and crying kids and overpriced popcorn … maybe it’s actually okay to leave some things in the past), our living rooms have become our own personal multiplexes with a multitude of viewing options.
These days, streaming services have apps that allow you to catch up on your favorite shows even when you’re nowhere near a flatscreen. It can be helpful to remind your parents and grandparents about this fact, especially since smartphone adoption among older adults has risen significantly in recent years.
Whether taking a phone projector and camping out in your backyard, streaming on your phone while working out or taking your tablet on a picnic, mobile viewing can allow your watching style to match your lifestyle.
DON’T: Miss out on useful features.
For anyone relatively new to regular streaming, searching the internet will quickly reveal a wide variety of hacks and plugins to enhance your viewing experience. While those can get overwhelming, an easy place to start is with the basics. For example, Netflix’s “My List” feature is great for those of us who spend more time browsing the endless library of movies and shows than actually making a selection. Saving content that interests you can also help with the earlier suggestion of creating a “viewing rotation” for family movie nights.
Baldwin has some thoughts on useful features that everyone should make sure to check out, too.
“The ‘Top 10’ feature has always been interesting, and it will point you to selections of shows and movies that you might not have noticed. Netflix is also coming out with a ‘Just Play Anything’ feature, kind of like Google’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ search option in the past,” Baldwin laughs. “That one could get risky, though.”
DO: Be open to watching new genres.
Even if you find that you regularly watch new shows and movies, it can be easy to get repetitive with your viewing habits. Need an easy fix? Try out a new genre!
According to Netflix’s 2020 Year In Review, the service experienced a considerable increase in viewing in genres such as anime, fantasy and action. When you’re looking for an escape, sometimes the solution is in your screen.
Getting in the habit of intentionally expanding your content choices is great when it comes to preparing for family movie nights. If you regularly watch TV or movies with your household, sometimes conflicts can present themselves in terms of differing tastes and preferences. In cases where nobody can agree on what to watch, Baldwin suggests creating a system.
“Set up a weekly rotation,” she says. “That might be a little too systematic, but it can really help deal with conflict. For TV shows, everyone just watches one person’s pick, and if doesn’t seem interesting after three episodes … move on to the next!”
DON'T: Binge-watch too many shows at once.
There's something almost hypnotic about a good TV series. So hypnotic, in fact, that suddenly it's 3am, you've realized that you haven’t moved or eaten in like 10 hours, and now that you’re thinking about it — did you even press play? Movie marathons and TV binge-watching are activities that can satisfy our urge to know what’s next in a captivating storyline, but it can also give you some serious dry eye.
Windrum sheds some light on the origins of binging.
“TV binging is rooted in this idea called ‘flow,’ which dates back to the radio era,” he says. “Flow has always been there. About 20 years ago, shows started playing back-to-back. The idea is to capture the audience’s attention and keep them watching. You can find this concept at work in the features of modern-day streaming services.”
We’re not here to tell you how to live your life, but it does help to give your eyes and body a break every now and then. Treat your movie marathons like actual marathons — eat healthy and drink plenty of water (that soda and popcorn combo works, too). Oh, and don't forget to stretch!
So, now that you know the “Do’s and Don’ts” of NSFP viewing, ready to introduce your parents or other older family members to the world of Netflix and not chilling? Check out T-Mobile’s 55+ plans that include Netflix right here.
Qualifying service required for Netflix. Like all offers, subject to change. See t-mobile.com/Netflix for details.