5 Parenting Pointers about Kids and Movie Ratings

Last weekend I was surfing through some of the free movie channels that my satellite company was trying to woo me with.  I stumbled onto the 2008 movie The Love Guru and watched for about 10 minutes only to find my jaw pasted to the floor in mortified disbelief.  This MPAA rated PG-13 movie was nowhere near appropriate for a 13 year old.   It had extreme sexual innuendo, profanity, and a boy who says “I want to be a guru so girls will like me and then I will like myself”.  Really?  In addition to finding themselves a shade of crimson, most adults I know would find such content highly inappropriate for impressionable teens and younger siblings who are often grandfathered in to a movie.  I’m not going to write about what I saw, because my mother will be reading this blog and I don’t want to offend her or, for that matter, you, dear reader! (Later, I’ll give you a website recommendation that you can use if you choose to read about Love Guru on your own.) What if your child was invited to see this movie and you assumed it would be acceptable just because of the PG 13 rating?  How do you know that the movies your children are viewing are appropriate to your value system as opposed to the fiscally motivated values of Hollywood Producer or a robotic MPAA rating panel?

Here are 5 suggestions to help parents stay a step ahead of Hollywood and kids who say “all my friends are seeing the movie… why can’t I?”

1.  Read Movie Rating Guides:  There are two excellent website resources that parents can use to assess movies before granting permission for kids to view them.  www.kidsinmind.com breaks movie ratings down into three areas, sexuality / nudity, violence, and profanity.  The site purveyor scores each of the three sections on a 1 to 10 scale.  The sexuality / nudity rating for The Love Guru is 7 even though it is rated PG-13.  Kids-in-Mind also provides a written synopsis of exactly what your kids will see in various scenes.  As a parent you can read through these scenes and decide what is acceptable and what is not.  Another excellent resource is www.commonsensemedia.org with ratings and guidance beyond just movies.

2.   Consider Your Child’s Developmental Age:  Development is made up of physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth.   A child’s brain grows thousands of new neural connections every day and is an organ that changes in response to its experiences.  In other words, what goes in will eventually be expressed!  If it experiences repeated violence, then sensitization to that violence and increased aggression have been shown to take place.  Studies also show that sexual identity issues can occur due to repeated exposure to promiscuity (for more information see the Parents Television Council website).  Why would we expose our children’s brains to violence and promiscuity when that brain is not mature enough to process them?

3.  Know who is Accompanying Your Child:  A mature adult who accompanies a child to a movie has an opportunity to create dialogue and educate a child on what the movie messages were.  Both positive and negative learning points can be discussed.   On the other hand, teenage peers who are left to their own devices may misinterpret or even exploit movie content.  If you don’t want to “embarrass” your teen by accompanying them to a movie, then read the discussion points area in the Kids In Mind review and be prepared to create dialogue with your kids.

4.  Know where the Movie Venue is:  When I stumbled onto The Love Guru, I was in my own home perusing channels including HBO and Cinemax.  If you have these types of channels in your home, you may consider blocking them from less mature eyes.  If your kids are at their friend’s homes, try to find out ahead of time what types of TV or movies they’ll be watching.  Ask other parents about supervision and channel blocking.  It does take a village!

5.  Be a Firm and Consistent Parent:  One of my favorite quotes is “If You Don’t Stand for Something, You Will Fall for Anything.” Keep it in mind as you use the above criteria to set movie guidelines for your children.  Stay consistent and stubbornly refuse to let anyone sway you from your ideals.  Kids will say “but all my friends are going”, and other parents might say “it’s no harm… our kids are good kids… they’ll be okay”.  You might consider sharing the mentioned websites with them and alerting them to the potential perils of certain movies.  Not only will you be protecting your child, you will set an example that you are a force to be reckoned with.  MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!

Reader comments are cherished.  Please share additional information that helps parents to protect kids from violent and promiscuous content.  It does take a village!